COMMENT

Changing the cast on the European stage

By Angelos Stangos

The history of the European Union is one of constant change and the emergence of new dynamics. It is all about compromises and procedures that lead to the final product, which is the decisions that are made and then implemented.

This is what is happening right now in view of the impending change of guard in the leadership in Brussels, which will include the heads of the Council, Commission, Eurogroup and Parliament, as well as the EU representative on matters of internal policy.

Whether we like it or not, most of these changes and procedures are taking place behind closed doors and are mainly influenced by the governments of the bloc’s bigger countries, though this does not mean that there is no role to be played by smaller members that are considered – for whatever reason, be it economic, geographic or political – as belonging to the hard core of the European Union.

Greece, unfortunately, is not among this group and needs to wait in the wings to see who will be playing the leading roles on the European stage.

Judging from developments, it appears that the best candidate for the position of Commission chief is the former prime minister of Luxembourg and ex-head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker. A deeply political man with a profound understanding of the problems faced by the bloc’s weaker countries, a man with the courage to stand up to the stronger members of the bloc and a Europeanist to the bone, Juncker has emerged as the most suitable man for the job. As a candidate of the European People’s Party, the biggest political grouping in the European Parliament, meanwhile, he ought to be given a leading role but his chances are becoming slimmer if recent indications are anything to go by.

There is no automatic institutional process that links the election of the European Commission president to the group that holds the largest percentage of the EU Parliament. Who will take over will be determined by Berlin, Paris and London on the basis of their interests and the overall political situation in Europe. Whatever is decided between those three may also determine who will compose the team of leaders in Brussels, from the European Council to the internal affairs commission. It would also include how the most important commissioner portfolios will be meted out, from that for energy to that for industry.

The European Union has always acted this way and continues to do so. Whether this is right or wrong will be determined by history.

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