On 2 July, the members of the European Council found an agreement on the heads of the European Union institutions.

After a long consultation, the European Union decided this is the time of women. It is necessary a bit of time to formalize and then finalize the appointment, however, at the moment, it seems almost certain that next October 31st,  Christine Lagarde (at the European Central Bank), Ursula von der Leyen (at the European Commission), Josep Borrell (as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), will be the new heads of the European institutions.

Meanwhile, EU leaders elected Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The next president should take office on 1 December 2019.

The initial reactions to EU institutions candidacies were generally appreciated. As concerns Christine Lagarde, however, many people were surprised by his appointment: no one in recent months had seriously considered the idea that Lagarde could be chosen to lead the European Central Bank, a role until now reserved for expert economists who had already led the central bank of their country. For sure in Christine Lagarde there is no lack of competence. She is serving as Managing Director and Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2011. Moreover, she previously held various senior ministerial posts in the Government of France, included the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry. She declared she would like to continue with Mario Draghi’s line which consist of helping the weakest countries of Europe. Ms Lagarde will probably inherit a policy mix of record-low interest rates until at least the middle of next year and possibly a substantial expansion of the ECB’s bond-buying quantitative easing programme too.

As concerns Ursula von der Leyen, she is a German politician serving as Minister of Defence since 2013 and member of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). However, only a third of Germans say their compatriot and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen would make a good Commission president, according to a German poll.

In the external section – as regards the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – the European leaders identified Josep Borrell as new face of the European external action. A member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, he assumed office as Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in June 2018. Moreover, he was the President of the European Parliament from 20 July 2004 until 16 January 2007.

The outcomes of the appointments are the epilogue of the Paris-Berlin axis. In fact, the traditional political families have filled up, instead nationalists have earned nothing. This should not be surprising, as it is in line with the election results of the recent European elections. European voters have relegated the nationalist parties into a fifth of the European Parliament. Four out of five Europeans voted for traditional parties. So, nothing unexpected.

Therefore, big countries – Germany, France, Spain – have obtained something from the appointments, except Italy. In Italy the nationalist parties have clearly won the last European elections. But the calculation of the votes is European, not national. Therefore, Italian nationalists, who still lead with a broad internal consensus, do not escape the failure in Europe. While in the last five years Italy had three representatives in the EU institutions (Mario Draghi as President of the European Central Bank, Antonio Tajani as President of the European Parliament and Federica Mogherini as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) in future, Italy is likely to see just an Italian – David Sassoli (member of the Democratic Party) elected as President of the European Parliament on 3 July – as head of an European Institution. The result is political irrelevance.

By: Domenico Greco

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