The European Union has just concluded its quinquennial ritual of choosing the leaders of its major institutions. This process has, especially since the introduction of the spitzenkandidaat process in 2014, been subject to much criticism for not being very transparent. This is clearly an invalid debate for two reasons. The first is that none of the spitzenkandidaaten were chosen. This was much to the wunderkind, Manfred Weber’s, chagrin. The second is that the whole process was televised. This is something rather unique. Which head of any central bank is selected publicly? Perhaps none.
Another thing to note is how long the process took. It seemed to take forever. In fact, like many things, there was much anticipation. Rather, through clear universal consensus in terms of what exactly needs to be achieved. It took only three days to do something which previously had taken three months.
Looking at leaders of EU institutions throughout the years, one would be mistaken to think that they are nobodies, given that they are normally relatively unknown internationally. On the other hand, aside from those sent by British delegation, they are often remarkably high achievers. It always seems like something akin to the Justice League or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. To be fair, many certainly do view themselves as upholders of freedom and justice for the general population. We are not going to go into the psychology of the kinds of people who feel compelled that they are part of a chosen few capable of solving our great problems. These individuals are true heavyweights in the world of politics, each of which with real-world, and surprisingly diverse experience. Usually their influence is limited domestically, just like Superman will not often impact the world of Batman, aside from certain chosen instances. The powers that be have made their decree, it is time to find out who will be steering the big yellow and blue boat called the European Union.
David-Maria Sassoli – European Parliament President
The only non-Francophone of the lot, he is probably the most anodyne. He spent around three decades working at a journalist. By around the year 2000 after a few years as the anchorman of TG1, Italy’s state-owned television’s news show, he became the country’s best-known journalist. He was a sort of Italian Walter Cronkite. By 2009, he entered the world of politics and became MEP for Central Italy, fighting for human rights and against extreme poverty, he also served as Vice-President of the European Parliament, and has been succeed by Mairead McGuinness.
Ursula Von der Leyen – European Commission President
With a name like Von der Leyen, this Brussels-born German defense minister. It would seem natural for her to be running something important in Europe, by virtue of the formalities that must be adhered to as though this position was divinely decreed. This name comes from her husband Heiko’s side. In return for making a fortune in Silk manufacturing, the family was rewarded with titles of nobility, mayorships, and the like. She is no wet rag, however, and incredibly accomplished. Not only is she not a career politician, but a physician by training. She has taught at university level, raised seven children, and occupied a total of four ministerial roles since being elected to office in 2003. She is also the only minister to have served under Angela Merkel’s four terms. She has also achieved many things such as increasing the number of childcare facilities in Germany, enforce minimum wage legislation, and blocking child pornography.
Charles Michel – European Council President
The first thing to note with Charles Michel is his age. At 43 years of age, although he is certainly not the youngest member of the European Parliament, the average is 55, is career is defined by doing things that are expected of those much older than her. For instance, he is nearly 20 years younger than his contemporaries in the big four positions. He is a decade younger than his two predecessors when they took their position. When elected for his first term as Belgian Prime Minister, he was the second youngest man to take the post in the country’s history. He was the youngest minister in history , he was the country’s youngest minister. This can be attributed to entering politics at 16 and being elected councilor at age 18. Perhaps this is proof of László Polgár’s idea that “geniuses are made, not born”, this man who engineered his daughters to be the two best female chess players in the world. There might be a limit to this theory, however, given that for the last six months he has been leading a collapsed government. Although Belgium is no stranger to not having a functioning government, having previously 2007 to 2011 without one.
Christine Lagarde – ECB President
Mrs. Lagarde is probably the most surprising of all of the nominees, given that she had technically left the world of European Politics to be the first female managing director of the IMF after her predecessor’s disgraceful departure. A trained lawyer, chef is the first female of a lot of things that she has done and continues to do.. The last achievement is her current nomination to be the first woman in this position. She was the first female chairman of Baker & McKenzie, first female Minister of Commerce, first female Finance Minister. What is very interesting, is that in spite of these roles in the world of policy-making and enforcement within the domains of fiscal policy, and finance, she has no experience in monetary policy. What is must notable is that she is due to start her new job on November 1st, the day following the United Kingdom’s third Brexit date. Mohamed El-Erian of Allianz and PIMCO views her as a much needed beath of fresh air for the dusty and stale ECB, which is in the need of an image change.
Considering the insistence on gender valance in these roles, several things must be noted. A certain emphasis was meant to be placed on geographic diversity and representation of the leaders. The four leaders are from Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy. They are part of the original six members.