While some squabble over the European Way of Life, von der Leyen is working on everything that matters
Political backlash for a non-issue followed by the subsequent media frenzy. This is the only way to describe what the last fortnight since President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced the synthesis of her new College of Commissioners. The dominating issue: The naming of the ‘European way of life’ portfolio of Commissioner-designate Margaritis Schinas. As if these four words could change the treaty, or content of the portfolio itself. As if certain political quarters’ interpretation of these four words makes one inkling of a difference to how Schinas will run his cabinet.
It will not. What is happening with this portfolio is political bickering of the lowest possible importance. It certainly matters who the figure to lead, for example, a portfolio including the Migration agenda is. There was a reason that Rocco Buttiglione did not take up the Justice, Freedom, and Security portfolio in 2004. It was not the name of the portfolio that made it problematic. It was Buttiglione’s known views combined with the content of his proposed portfolio.
The media have had a field day (some ceremoniously throwing their weight against the European Way of Life to make their mark); while analysts, specialists, political commentators, and even what the Americans would call ‹the average Joe› have weighed in, giving politicians a chance to step in and earn points in the forms of viral tweets and quotes in newspaper columns.
So to all those politicians out there that are acting like this is the defining issue of the next five years: Get a grip. Having migration in this portfolio with this title, or another, will not affect what happens to any migrants, anywhere in Europe. If anything, it may even unite us down the road.
Meanwhile, Schinas has handpicked the crème de la crème for his cabinet and is ready to hit the ground running, whether it’s as Vice President for the Proper Management of Difficult Portfolios Like Migration As Well As Security And Some Other Stuff We Need To Focus On Like Employment And Education or anything else.
And while others are discussing this non-issue, von der Leyen and her team is focusing on things that matter. Even if von der Leyen decides to change the name of the portfolio, she has already won much more.