September 12, 2014
Scientific experts are attempting to explain the EU’s communications paradoxes. In 2009, Prof. Peter Van Aelst analyzed the election campaign of the first President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, stressing that the basic rules of political campaigning were not applied. On the contrary, we have witnessed the opposite of the logic of campaigning.
Theoretically, with a low public visibility, a political candidate has no chance of success. Therefore in practice we see that in the US potential presidents spend millions on advertising. The EU presidential election was totally contrary: the less attention, the better. Virtually no candidate for that job was presented publically. Open support for personalities is seen as a clear benefit of the campaign, but in the EU presidential election the opposite happened, the motto seemingly being “the less public support, the better”. In traditional campaigns, candidates need programs. Some even argue that the campaign battle between candidates is a debate about the proposals of each candidate. However, during the campaign for EU President taking any public position was avoided by the candidates. The whole campaign the message was “Van Rompuy was not a candidate to become president, but a possible candidate to be asked to take the position,” said Peter Van Aelst. After such “elections” one should not be surprised by the open attack on the European project, such as those by the Eurosceptics.
Let’s now get back to 2014! What has changed compared to previous elections? Now we have a new EU president elected by the leaders of European states: Poland’s Donald Tusk in person. Other than the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, who was elected after “semi-primary” elections, the procedure for choosing the Council President was the about same as in 2009, but a little more transparent.
Europe begins to nominate leaders for the next five years and maybe more. We now have the President of the Council – Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission – Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Parliament – Martin Schulz and we also have the European “joker” who leads (as much as possible of course) the European foreign diplomacy – Federica Mogherini. In a few weeks we will have the full new European Commission. It appears now that we will have surprises, as the names given by European governments and approved by Juncker have to go through hearings by the MEPs. And the European Parliament has a rooted tradition of rejecting at least one nomination, as it did in 2004 with the Italian Rocco Buttiglione, even though he was professor of political science at the University of Rome and had ministerial experience or the Bulgarian candidate Rumiana Jeleva in 2009.
At the same time we should not forget that national leaders often are – even in the European field – more influential than newly appointed European faces. Let’s not forget Angela Merkel, who is unavoidable in the political scene, as well as – with a surprise force – Matteo Renzi. Let’s not forget that both come from the G7 group of developed countries. And big politics cannot be strengthened without a strong economy.