EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has put her foot in it by writing in a newspaper that the Germans electing Merkel would be a good idea. This has led to a chorus of howls from Social Democrat MEPs that she has no right to say such things about national politics (see this article). Kroes insists that she was hopeful Merkel would win because she was a woman. And the irony is that she was writing in a newspaper called Trouw which roughly translates as loyal or faithful. So maybe she should give some thought to who she should be loyal and faithful to.
First of all, the European Commission should stand up for the European interest. Has Kroes (or any of the other Commissioners for that matter) done that sufficiently? I very much doubt it. Barroso has also said that the European Commission should basically do what the Member States want it to do. Further, how many articles has Kroes written in UK newspapers, or Mandelson in Dutch ones? Very few. Give Margot Wallstrom her due with her blog – she is at least trying.
Secondly, there are far too few women represented at the top levels of politics. Give Barroso his due – he at least tried to get a decent number of women in his team. So commending the idea of the first woman Chancellor is, in itself, not all bad.
Yet underlying all of this is the very real issue: what sort of party-political stance(s) should the European Commission be allowed to take? Kroes’s political standpoints are closer to those of Merkel, and there was a sense that the composition of the European Commission needed somehow to be linked to the fact that the centre-right won a majority in the European Parliament elections in 2004. After all, I am sure the Dutch Christian Democrats will give support to the CDU, just as the UK Labour Party could in theory support the SPD. If the European Commission had a proper party political standpoint, then there would be no problem.
So the message for Kroes and all the other Commissioners is this: the more partisan the Commission becomes, the more acceptable comments like the ones made this week will become. On balance that is probably not a bad thing.