A few weeks ago we were told that the great hope for the European Union lay in its fresh, new (well, give or take some second-hand politicians) Commission. Now we are told that the great hope for the same Union lies in the fact that the European Parliament would probably not have endorsed said Commission.
The vote, as we know has been postponed and the old Commission, under Prodi, stays on without, presumably, those members who have already departed for pastures new and green. Prodi himself must be feeling a bit like Mark Twain who wrote (and this is the true quotation):
“… the report of my death was an exaggeration”.There have been many political obituaries written for Prodi the Commission President, all of them unflattering. Now he has to soldier on for three more weeks. Not only some of the Commissioners have gone, most of the cabinets have emptied out and the officials have scattered to the four corners of the European Union.
This is, some commentators say excitedly, a political and legal novelty. Actually, no. We did once have a Commission resigning, only to come back and as an acting Commission and it carried on until a new one was appointed with some of the same members.
The idea that legislation will now somehow stop or politics grind to a halt exists only in the fevered imagination of the journalists. The legislation, as we have pointed out several times, carries on according to multiannual plans. Possibly, a few minor decisions will have to be postponed.
Then there is the other exciting bit of news: the European Parliament has come of age; it has flexed its muscles; it has shown its importance in the political and legislative process. Well, most of us feel that throwing your toys out of the pram is not really coming of age.
All the European Parliament has done is made it clear that it will not vote for a Commission that has a member who does not toe the acceptable left of centre line in his private views. Though there were problems with some of the other Commissioners, they would have been voted in. In fact, quite possibly, Barroso could have negotiated some sort of a deal but chose not to. After all, it did not come to a vote.
Nothing much has changed in the legislative or political structure of the European Union. But the MEPs, bless their little hearts, hug themselves with delight whenever there is a sign of their strictly temporary importance. In a month’s time we would have once again forgotten of their existence unless more stories come out of them claiming expenses. Let them enjoy their moments in the sun.