Ursula von der Leyen has fulfilled too many wishes. Some of her candidates are completely unsuitable for the intended post.
Ursula von der Leyen presents her "dream team" Photo: ap
On paper, she looks good, the new EU Commission around Ursula von der Leyen. The first woman to head the powerful Brussels agency has fulfilled all the wishes EU leaders asked of her during the controversial nomination in July.
The Commission has become more female, falling just short of the promised parity. Politically, it is reasonably balanced, even if the Greens were hardly included and the left not at all. And the previously neglected southern and eastern Europeans have been given important posts.
Margrethe Vestager, Vera Jouriva and Sylvie Goulard will be the new "strong women" in Brussels – alongside von der Leyen, of course, who pulls all the strings. With Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis, the east will be upgraded, and with Italian Paolo Gentiloni, the south.
And the fact that Irishman Phil Hogan will be responsible for trade in the future is a strong signal to the British. After Brexit – if it comes – they want to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU. Ireland now has a front-row seat in this.
But the "dream team" has a problem: The portfolios have been tailored to the individual commissioners – not in a way that serves the cause, but rather the person or the EU country behind them. In addition, von der Leyen has come up with euphonious titles that, on closer inspection, turn out to be misleading.
The example of Margaritis Schinas is particularly glaring. The Greek, who was previously chief spokesman for Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, is supposed to take care of "protecting our European way of life. However, this does not refer to culture or nutrition, but to the defense against "irregular" migrants.
No wonder this nomination is met with resistance. The label is "scary," wrote Green Party co-chair Ska Keller. She said she hopes von der Leyen "does not see a contradiction between support for refugees and European values." Other members of parliament don’t want to let that pass, either.
The new Commissioner for "Values and Transparency," Czech Vera Jourova, must also reckon with headwinds. She is a co-founder of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s populist ANO party, which has been investigated on suspicion of fraud. That Jourova, of all people, should be responsible for the rule of law and democracy is a mockery not only for many Czechs.
There are even doubts about the "economy for the people. Dombrovskis’ fine-sounding job description conceals such critical issues as financial stability, financial services and the Capital Markets Union. It is more about democracy in line with the market than about protecting employees.
The Commission President also provides cognitive dissonance. She promises more climate protection and social issues; her candidacy speech in the European Parliament sounded at times like a red-green government program. In practice, however, she wants to abolish an old EU law for every new one – which in the past usually meant social cuts.
In addition, she has declared defense, armaments and "geopolitics" to be new priorities of European policy. The former German defense minister even wants to create a new Directorate General "Defense Industry and Armaments" and subsidize European arms manufacturers from EU funds.
She said nothing about this in her application. Even now, she is not really showing her colors. The motto of her Commission is "A Union that wants to achieve more". The only question is what.