Why The Economist should not write about EU affairs

On February 11, 2014 by Vincent

The Economist claims to offer “authoritative insight”. This might be true for some fields but for EU affairs it is certainly not.

On February 8th The Economist published the article Lagarde for President. The author argues for three points:

  1. Christine Lagarde would be the perfect next Commission president because she offers an “outsider’s view about what is wrong with the EU” and has a wealth of international experience.
  2. Neither of the so far running candidates, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt and Jean-Claude Juncker, should become Commission president because these are “an assortment of obscure European commissioners and the president of the dysfunctional European Parliament” and form a “an uninspiring list of Eurocrats”.
  3. The European Parliament should not be allowed to vote on the Commission president but is should be decided by “Europe’s three main leaders”, that is Holland, Cameron and Merkel.

Assessment

In short, this article is of a very low quality. Of the three main claims only the first one is a legitimate opinion. Yes, Lagarde might be a good Commission president. What is wrong with the other two points?

First, the article portrays Schulz, Verhofstadt and Juncker as something they are not. Neither were they Commissioners nor are they “Eurocrats”. All three are politicians have been a) elected and b) held executive office. Moreover, the articles calls it a disadvantage that Verhofstadt and Juncker are from small member states. Yet, even first-years in B.A. European Studies learn that in the EU context this is actually an advantage. Often positions are filled by candidates from the small members states as the latter are afraid of dominance by the big 5 (Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain).

Second, the article argues against an involvement of the European Parliament in the Commission nomination process. This simply is  an utterly anti-democratic proposal! I don’t know what is wrong with the majority of UK press but they simply seem not to be capable of imagining that democracy could exist beyond the nation-state. Considering the globalising world and a non-democratisation of it this would be a very gloomy perspective and arguably the end of democracy as global pressures take the sovereignty out of the peoples’ hands. The European Parliament is the essential institution when it comes to making the European Union more democratic. To demand it to stay outside of the process and instead letting the biggest countries’ heads of government decide is exactly the way of thinking that made the EU democracy as imperfect as it is today (Johannes Langer wrote a bit more on this point).

Moreover, the article claims that Chancellor Merkel would prefer Lagarde over any of the three nominees. This is a wrong assessment too as Martin Schulz is a member of the German social-democrats who are in a coalition with Merkel’s conservative party. I can assure you that the German social democrats, of which I am a member of, would not accept an overruling of the European Parliament by Merkel. Such a move would most likely blow the coalition.

In conclusion, please The Economist, do not try to write about EU affairs – a subject you obviously have no understanding of.

Further reading

In the comments to the article Tom Spane adds even more points on why this article by The Economist is a very bad one, looking at the weekly’s stance on Commission president nominations in recent years.

 

 

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