Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Some Europeans, in modest numbers, cared to vote last Sunday for the unloved EU Parliament.
The voting pattern was almost surreal. It looked more like a disclaimer for interest in the arcane workings of this travelling institution (Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg) than as an investment in its workings.  Voters' apathy and estrangement ruled and the likes of Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen had their minutes of notoriety.

It is sad to see how the EU institutions are getting marginalized.  Enlargement has led to a lack of identity. The EU apparatus looks bloated and the affinities which existed with a smaller, more identifiable decision-making nucleus have disappeared.  This is regrettable, but not beyond repair. Sooner or later the EU will have to face its own "stress test".  A Bretton Woods-type of formula should be found, correcting the cumbersome weight of a representation of "all" members per se, which leads to a zero sum outcome. The same goes, for instance, for the translation of documents into a myriad of languages, which is equally absurd. The cost of many of the EU arcane workings is staggering, feeding the general overriding indifference of the EU public opinion towards most things Brussels.

The overall correction will come when a new generation takes over. The Commission has to become a focus of excellence and had better cease being the Saint Helena of disgraced politicians. The same goes for the EU Parliament. The names for the possible Spitzenkandidaten for the presidency of the Commission don't stir the slightest interest.  Old timers fail to raise expectations. Better to take a risk than step further down the road to becoming irrelevant. Jean-Claude Juncker or Guy Verhofstadt are both high-quality personalities but the deja vu works against legitimacy. They look like belonging to some country club wherein the board members vote for each other ad nauseam because of lack of applications. Only Herman Van Rompuy, the accidental president of the Council, was able to become a respected and almost Machiavellian leader.  The task of sorting out the Papabile for the presidency of the Commission falls to him yet again, since the consensus seems to have taken a break.

Likewise, the ECB is performing better for the reason that it is identifiable and more accountable. The ECB indeed "is" Mario Draghi.  When the financial brush fire looked unstoppable, public opinion got the reassurance that Ben Bernanke (Fed), Mervyn King (Bank of England) and Jean-Claude Trichet (ECB) would be able to stem stem the financial crisis. Their names and identities were familiar and trusted! 

Solutions, grand plans, and ambitions do not fit into a bureaucratic anonymous nexus. To trust, one has to relate. The EU will not fail but it should beware of becoming "indifferent".  The hybrid wave which won the EU parliamentary elections has little staying-power because populist frustration dies fast.   In the end there was much to do about almost nothing.

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