Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled her new team of EU Commissioners. Their job descriptions and responsibilities are nebulous, oddly overlapping and bound to cause confusion. This is European bureaucracy at its worst.
Most Europeans pay scant attention to the detailed inner workings of Brussels politics, precisely because of the bewildering nature of its bloated bureaucracy.
Von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, has gone and made it worse.
The former German defense minister has steered away from traditional ministerial titles and opted for more Orwellian-sounding names – the kind you need to google to decipher what they actually mean.
Instead of getting a commissioner for dealing with defense or foreign policy, for instance, we are getting a “Commissioner for a Stronger Europe in the World.” There will also be a “Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight” who will apparently deal with policy-making and regulation and a “Commissioner for an Economy that Works for People.”
It’s all very ‘Ministry of Truth’-esque.
One particular title has backfired spectacularly. The “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life” will be dealing, partially, with immigration policy. The name has already been slammed as “fascist,” “grotesque” and, my favorite, an“infelicitous semantic choice”due to the alleged implication that Europeans need to be “protected” from immigrants.
Though the outrage seems a little hasty, not merely because von der Leyen (who spent 14 years in Angela Merkel’s government) hardly has a history of extreme anti-immigrant stances under her belt – but because the ‘Way of Life’ commissioner will also be dealing with empowering the workforce in the digital age, education, culture, sport and...security.
‘Way of Life’ will not encompass European ‘values,’ however. That’s been thrown in with ‘Transparency’.
It turns out, then, that the main responsibility for immigration issues will actually fall to the ‘Home Affairs’ commissioner. He will deal with migration, internal security, radicalization and terrorism. Not unlike the ‘Stronger Europe’ commissioner, who will also focus on security issues — in addition to foreign policy.
This all seems like the opposite of efficient.
Anyway, we’re supposed to be delighted and grateful because von der Leyen is a woman and her cabinet is “gender-balanced” – as if that was the quick-fix for Europe’s plethora of problems.
Nevermind that she’s gung-ho for a ‘European Army’ or that she and former convicted-of-negligence IMF chief-turned-ECB-boss Christine Lagarde are hardly going to bend over backwards working to address rampant inequality or smash the neoliberal status quo.
Oh well. At least with these new fancy-sounding, ill-defined job portfolios, we’ll get the appearance of change and reform, if not the substance.