Tuesday 26 May 2009

No longer European leaders without European biographies!

European leaders should have European biographies. All the others may leave. Now!

For Europe to advance as a common cultural space, as an area of shared identities and a feeling of connectedness, we have to leave behind those old-fashioned politicians - so-called "European" - whose biographies are based on national education and national careers.

We have to get leaders and politicians who have actually lived what the European Union promises - mobility, multicultural experiences, multilingualism.

When you look into the CVs of the outgoing European Commissioners (you may add Solana to the list), almost non of them has lived a life that deserve the term "European". This is no surprise, since they are nominated by the member states, you may rightfully say, but that doesn't make it more satisfactory. I suppose most MEPs CVs don't look much different.

A handful has studied in another European country - rather limited to France, the UK or Russia - and the most common foreign education experience seems to be a Master or PhD in the US. Almost non has lived or worked in another European country - let alone two or more - for a considerable time before getting into some EU-related or international organisation office.

No surprise again - they had to build their national political (at maximum: diplomatic) careers to be promoted into a European office. But this is not European in the true sense of the word, it is neither transnational nor supranational, its just old wine in new skins.

But now is the time that the terms of these worn-out biographies ends, that a new generation of Europeans comes into higher offices.

I have no doubt that some of the old personalities now in office have learnt to play the European game, they have learnt do make European politics, and they may have been socialised into the European Union's institutional culture. Fine.

But I as a European do not really feel represented by those who have never been really European before political power was calling. They talk about the four to five freedoms, but they don't know how it feels to actually make use of them. They take decisions on policies in countries other than their own without ever having lived in another European country, especially none with a more distant culture than their own.

They should represent the common Europe, but in my eyes they represent a Europeanised national perspective. And this is the maximum we can get from them. Not necessarily do they represent the interests of their own country, but they lack the pan-European feeling having grown up in the small worlds of their national politics.

They lack the cultural diversity that is the essence of a European identity, and they don't have the spirit that we need to revitalise this amazing project called European Union.

And Barroso is the tip of the iceberg!

If I had a wish, I would wish that the new European Parliament - of which we will know the new composition in two weeks - would be much stricter in its scrutiny of new and old candidates for the European Commission. I would like to hear tougher questions on the European identity and biographies of the future Commissioners, on their actual ability to feel European, not just act European.

The European Union of national politicians - in the Council, the Commission, and also the European Parliament - has to end; we need a European Union of European politicians, with European biographies, with European identities, and with a true connection to the community of European citizens, not just to the European Union of member states.

So let the old generation leave their offices and spend some years living throughout Europe. Let them catch up their European socialisation, let them do ERASMUS, COMENIUS, and LEONARDO DA VINCI - and meanwhile the next generation will try to rebuild Europe before it is too late!

PS: This is the kind of "radical" approach I would like to hear from European political youth organisations, even much more radical, against the old elites - not boring old people's rhetoric through prefabricated statements!


Eurosocialiste said...

Hi Julien,
I understand how you feel. I guess many European-minded people like us often feel like that. But then, the fact is politicians are supposed to represent the people, and the European-minded people are still a minority unfortunately, while most people can not master the use of another language, and have never leaved abroad. So in that sense, it is right that politicians do not have much of a European curriculum. Then, what shall we do? Set quotas for the people who have a real European curriculum? just like it is the case in some countries for women and under-represented minorities? Why not, after all?
As you say at the end of your article, I think it's a matter of generation. In my home country France, I have noticed that there are more and more politicians who have other European origins - or non-European origins as a matter of fact - and are thus more European-minded. I think there is hope but it's going to take a generation or two to change.

Julien Frisch said...

My fear is that it could be too late for the Union if it has to wait for the next generation.

It will have lost its credibility until then, and we will never be able to convince all those who by don't feel or understand the value of this project, because they will just see politicians who live the life they live, just better paid.

European politicians need to set examples, as any politician should. And I don't want to wait a whole generation until we get those good examples!

Eurocentric said...

Out of the NI candidates, the Alliance candidate seems to have the most "European" background and experience - he's lived in England, Germany and Spain and speaks fluent Spanish and German. He's also set up a business, but I don't know if that was in another EU member state.

Of course, he's no hope of winning a seat.

Fergus O'Rourke said...

I am afraid that it is posts like this that allow your opponents to say that you euro-fanatics are detached from reality (and they may be correct !).

You want the union to be run by people who conform to a top-down prescription of suitable criteria. As your post and the first comments demonstrate, there are no emerging leaders of the type you want. (I don't dispute the logical basis of your choice of such criteria.) Unfortunately, you cannot just wish (or legislate) that situation away.

Not only is there no prospect of this approach being adopted, I have to say that it is more reminiscent of the soviet-type approach to selecting leaders than the western democratic one.