An Old Commission

by xabier

The names’ list of European ministers was unveiled on Friday with few surprises. Actually, the system to elect the commissioners is not only poorly democratic, but also the best way to promote inefficiency.

Commissioners are designated by countries’ governments, who also bid for the juiciest possible areas. Mr Durão Barroso only has to combine these 27 particular bids in the most intelligent way, if any. His job is more a decision on balance rather than on efficiency. Some figures will show it:

  • 13 out of 27 commissioners are remaining in the Commission, and 14 are freshly new. That figure represents 52% of renovation (actually slightly more, as the president’s position was not under discussion… let’s say 54%). Not that bad, isn’t it? It should be possible even to say that almost half the commissioners did a good job and therefore they deserve to keep their positions. Maybe… but it is not true. Every commissioner who keep his/her position also has moved to other department (apart from the president). The immediate conclusion should be then the opposite one: any of old commissioners did not perform a good job. But that is again untrue. A sadder explanation is that efficiency (good government) is not related at all with renovation or permanence in the Commission chairs. There are no rewards or punishments. Then, if we will have a good or a bad government over the next 5 five years will be just a random matter. Fingers crossed.
  • The women numbers increased from 8 (30%) up to 9 (33%). This is not just ridiculous, but also outraging in many ways. Assuming that Mr Durão Barroso’s job is to keep a certain balance, it is possible to think that him (and the rest of European governments) considers that a third of female chairs is a balance good enough. Let’s go further: out of the five most populated countries, only one, the United Kingdom, has been appointed a women as a commissioner. Not Germany, nor France, nor Spain, nor Italy. Even further: out of eight most economic-oriented commission areas, women are in charge in none of them: culture, internet, you know, female matters. The most economic-oriented area governed by a woman is Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, by Greek Maria Damanaki.
Commissioners for party and sex
Commissioners for party and sex. In bold, major changes in portfolios.
  • We have heard the point already: women must be present at the Commission for their skills and efficiency, not for the fact they are women. Oddly, I never heard someone defending that a male commissioner must be present at the Commission for their skills and efficiency, not for the fact he is Maltese. Anyway, there are 500 million people living in Europe, to say 250 million women at least. Is it no possible to find a prepared, skilled woman out of 2 million women? Is that what all those men, Barroso leading, are saying?
  • Comparing with the first Barroso Commission, where four independent commissioners were seated, in this new commission there will be only one, appointed by the former conservative government of Romania, in the eve of losing a confidence vote.

    European Parties' weight in the Parliament and in the Commission

    European Parties' weight in the Parliament and in the Commission

  • There are, then, 12 christian-democratic, 8 liberals, and 6 socialist commissioners. Let’s say that that in extremis Romanian commissioner is fairly independent, and let’s imagine that we can store him in the ‘non-inscrits’ box. There are two groups represented in a similar relation with their weights in the Parliament, there are four groups underrepresented (actually 23% of “people’s voice” has no commissioners) and two groups are overrepresented: Christian-democrats have 22% more commissioners than ‘expected’ and liberals 172% more, something really impressive and worrying. Certainly, there is no organic relationship between Parliament and Commission, so there is no a mandatory balance in forces. But Parliament is, in some extent, the people’s voice and it would be nice to see Mr Barroso and the respective governments doing more democratic choices, if we assume that democracy matters.