I’m deeply pro-EU, but the recent appointments of two EU officials leave a sour taste.
I mean, look at van Rumpuy. Would you be quaking in fear and awed by his power if summoned to his throne-chamber? You’re not exactly thinking, “All is lost! It’s Emperor Palpatine all over again!” are you? Even less would you be overwhelmed by admiration of his bottomless well of humanity and compassion, the steel-trap nature of his intellect, or the sagacity of his decisions. Not big on the personal presence, the ex-Belgian PM. And the name – “Herman van Rumpuy” – sounds like a movie baddie, but from a kid’s cartoon rather than a Bond flick. His personality is marked by a complete lack of ability to influence others or make hard decisions, and entirely defined by a weak-bellied love of consensus that blows with the prevailing wind.
And you can tell that just from a photo, can’t you?
The two nobodies – a almost comically bureaucratic Belgian and an uncharismatic British peer with little frontline experience – illustrate precisely what’s wrong with EU decisionmaking, even beyond the undemocratic way in which such appointments are made: there’s no sense of excellence. A candidate simply has to be acceptable to everyone; it’s never driven by merit, much less vision or ambition. It’s the worst kind of public sector jobsworthism: box-ticking, quota-filling, Buggins’-turn mediocrity.
The EU is an incredible achievement. Despite the headlines about corrupt accounting (true) and outdated subsidies (also true) it’s bound together 27 nations, many of whom have been at war with each other for much of their history, into a freely trading bloc that adds a percentage point or two to each member’s GDP and create business opportunities for everyone. The great mistake of Europhiles was to think it needed to be something more: a federal superstate with its own parliament and president.
Perhaps, ultimately, the appointment of these two nonentities is a good thing: it’ll demonstrate just how little influence “Europe” has over world affairs, and the whole bloc will settle down into what it should be: a unified economic area with free movement of goods, services, capital and people. That’s what we need: the freedom to grow our economies, not “leadership” from Brussels. And the best thing about van Rumpuy and Ashton is that nobody’s ever going to listen to them.