Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

EUobserved

And then there was Frans

  • Timmermans - Juncker's right (and left) hand (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

On Tuesday afternoon, at approximately 2.30pm Brussels time, the clouds parted. The sun broke out and through its rays it was possible to see ... Frans Timmermans.

The Dutchman, apparently floating a few feet above ground, glided into the European Parliament for his hearing.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It was almost a month to the day that Jean-Claude Juncker informed those listening that Frans would be his right hand and, somewhat alarmingly, his deputy if he could not be "mentally" present.

So what would he, Frans Timmermans, *first* vice-president, and in possession of a job description that appears to be the result of a random word association game (plus perhaps a little sustainable development), actually say.

Well, what didn't he say.

There was music for everybody's ears.

Pro-EU, but going to stop it from being meddlesome. A cull-er of legislation, but not social standards. Tough on crime, but also on upholding human rights. Pro-transparency. Champion of national parliaments, but respectful of MEPs. Prepared (in principle) to be as hard-hitting as Victoria Nuland on Hungary. Centre-left. But centre-left from a penny-loving northern EU state. A rescuer of (EU-) disaffected citizens.

He had MEPs by the first question - answering in Italian (it was, for a while, a moot point whether anyone was listening to the answers so much as wondering what language was coming next).

And nailed their affections by knowing the difference between delegated and implementing acts.

For the centre-left he was, clearly, a "tour de force". The centre-right did some pro-forma finger wagging to the tune of actions being louder than words. The greens expressed some mild reservations about potentially over-zealous law-pruning.

When the dust settled, the back-slapping stopped, it became clear that his role as top vice-president of the EU commission was quite as unclear as when he entered the room.

But too late, he'd already gone.

"No worries there," the enforcer-in-chief stated at one point. He would make it so that all of the commission's goals were achieved with the new two-tier system.

He would not be a "sheriff", he would work with his colleagues to find a common agreement on everything.

So ended 27 (and a half) hearings across 7 days. The de facto two-tier commission had been denied by everybody. No one has a veto. (Although some clearly - Moscovici / Oettinger - wish they had).

It's all about consensus-building; working across departments; and no hierarchies. In fact, it's all resoundingly vague. (Who will represent the eurozone at IMF and G-20 meetings? Ach that'll be decided on the day).

But with all these co-ordinators around - and Juncker set to be the most hands-off commission president ever - who will actually be taking the decisions?

The one with the clearest overview of what is going on in the commission. The one across whose desk every law will pass ...

"No worries there," he says.

EUobserved

Death by 'hearings'

The hearings, the hearings. It's all about the hearings. Please make it stop. Or should that be start?

Who is Frans Timmermans?

The Dutch Frans Timmermans is set to become the most powerful EU official in Brussels - so who exactly is he?

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

Exclusive

French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote

At least five MEPs and several minor politicians from EU states, many of them French, have spent the past few days in Russia peddling propaganda that its elections were free and fair.

Column

Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel

There is one female leader in European history whom Merkel resembles much more than the fiery, authoritarian Catherine the Great, who once staged a coup with her lover against her husband. Instead, it is the Habsburg empress Maria-Theresia.

Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte

New polling found Dutch voters have rapidly started losing trust in all levels of government. 15 percent of those surveyed have "lost all confidence" in the government. The loss of trust does not extend to prime minister Mark Rutte.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  2. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them
  3. Spain wants energy price discussion at next EU summit
  4. Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte
  5. Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel
  6. The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords
  7. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  8. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us