I will be honest: when I first read through the new political program of the new European Commission, which is to be led by Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, I was quite enthusiastic. It hit all of the right notes. [By the way, the lowercase v in von der Leyen is there fore the right reason: pedigree.] But then I started to read a bit. I thought: I’ve been abroad for too long, so I should check what it’s all about.
I found this: most – if not all – of the Political Guidelines for the 2019-2024 Commission are just copy-paste from Juncker’s Guidelines for the 2014-2019 Commission (‘A New Start for Europe’). Mrs. von der Leyen only re-packaged Juncker’s ‘Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy’ into a new ‘European Green Deal’ and put it first place to please the Greens and other left-wing movements.
These guidelines continue to reflect the federal utopia of the ruling pro-European political parties: the European People’s Party, the Party of European Socialists (PES), and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), which dominate the Commission (85% of Commissioners) and the European Parliament (60% of MEPs). It blatantly undercuts the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as laid down in the TEU and TFEU treaties. Mrs. von der Leyen’s programme will also continue to feed a sprawling EU bureaucracy (32,000 staff in the European Commission alone, not counting agencies and committees) which EU citizens can no longer identify with.
The European Union does not need a new start. It needs to get back to basics, and that is to promote free enterprise, liberty, democracy and security – internally and externally. The EU needs to stay away from redistributing hard-earned taxpayer money and dictating the economic and political choices of its member states. Countries with lower productivity growth, for example, should not be forced into a monetary union. They should, instead, be encouraged to fully unleash the potential of free-market policies, and the benefits of deregulation, lower taxation, and effective governance. The EU should stop gradually increasing its power in each and every area: power should, instead, be given back to the lowest level possible.
Instead of proposing another European Democracy Action Plan, or launching another Conference aimed at expanding the powers of the EU, Mrs. von der Leyen should initiate an honest reflection on why a majority of the British people voted to get out of the European Union while – back in 1975 – almost 70% of the UK’s population was in favor of the then Conservative government’s choice to accede.
While Mrs. von der Leyen refers to the May 2019 elections in her mission letters to all of the Commissioners-designate, she fails to accept European voters voted overwhelmingly right-wing: the EPP and S&D fractions no longer have a majority in European Parliament: only by co-opting the ALDE MEPs who, unfortunately, subscribe to the same federalist utopia, will they be able to propose and adopt more of the same. By refusing to acknowledge the need for a Euro-realist reform of the EU’s institutions and policies, these three status-quo parties pave the way for Euro-skepticism and worse: increased support for extremism, authoritarianism and racism is already evident now. Burying one’s head in the sand is not an option.
While climate change, the economy, big data, social inclusion and the return of extremist political views are, obviously, very real concerns, the solutions that the likes of Mr. Juncker and Mrs. von der Leyen have been pushing at the European level are not working. On the contrary, they are making things worse by further alienating citizens from politics and government. Most citizens in EU member want less regulation, lower taxation and smaller government: not more !
The EU’s migration policies and its tentative Common European Asylum Policy are not working. Political leaders simply need to accept European countries cannot accommodate all people fleeing from war or poverty. If it does not want to radicalize populations in Czechia, Poland and Hungary, then the EU should stop imposing quota. Uncontrolled migration and abuse of the right to political asylum are to be stopped by a strong defense of the external borders of the European Union and by moving forward on full integration of the Western Balkans.
The EU should pursue solid agreements with the countries of origin ensuring a safe return. Such agreements, and the EU’s external action in general, should also address the root causes of the problems that make people flee. Such external action should not be pursued in splendid isolation: if Mrs. von der Leyen’s call for a ‘genuine European Defense Union’ leads Mr. Macron to proclaim NATO’s ‘brain death’, then we should not pursue this union – because it is clear to all that NATO, and NATO only, has enabled the new democracies in Eastern Europe to resist Russia’s attempts to re-establish the Cold War border between democratic and authoritarian states.
Mrs. von der Leyen wants her incoming Commission to be a ‘geopolitical Commission.’ If that is her true objective, she made a very poor start in laying out its vision and foundations. The citizens of Europe’s nation-states voted for another platform just a few months ago.