By Georgi Gotev
Picking the new batch of EU leaders, and especially the Commission president, is much more difficult this time around. And it’s not really about the Spitzenkandidaten system, it’s not even about the political, gender or geographic balance. It’s about the person itself.
The EU needs a great leader to give new impetus to the European project and steal the show from the anti-EU camp. National elections, almost everywhere, are fought on the basis of EU-bashing, and it’s unfair. Almost all accusations are poorly substantiated, but it works. The EU doesn’t fight back or does very little to counter its detractors.
But time is running out. On 23 April 2022, France will elect their president. If Marine Le Pen wins, this will be the end of the EU as we know it.
Therefore, the EU needs disruptive innovation incarnated in its new Commission President.
It doesn’t matter which political group he or she will come from. Even their nationality hardly matters. What really matters is that this person is extremely good at their job, that he/she is in good health and can do things differently, changing for the better the perception of the EU with European citizens.
If we look for a comparison with the current crop of world leaders, this could be someone like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, someone intriguing for the wider audience to discover as a real person, including his or her weaknesses, someone who cannot by any means be called a bureaucrat.
The new Commission president should be someone capable of thinking and acting out of the box.
He or she should not be afraid of sipping beer with journalists in a bar, even in the early hours of the next day. The new Commission president should be able to take positions spontaneously on most issues, without using the excuse of ‘the lack of legislative mandate’. And, why not, the next Commission president should be a positive populist.
In the simplest terms: the new Commission chief should be a likeable person, someone any European citizen would be happy to receive as a guest for Christmas.
Let’s be quite blunt – Manfred Weber clearly doesn’t qualify for that. But Margrethe Vestager and Frans Timmermans could.
Unfortunately, EU leaders have discarded all three Spitzenkandidaten, possibly to make the EPP’s setback more palatable for the EU’s biggest political group.
Perhaps EU leaders need to think twice. There are not so many great candidates to change the narrative. Some of them, by impersonating the loathed establishment, would only help Le Pen win the elections.
*First published in euractiv.com