Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EU commissioner backs Royal in French election

  • Margot Wallstrom - offering personal opinions in her public blog (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Although Brussels is formally keeping quiet on who it would like to see win the French elections, certain individual commissioners have been less discreet.

Margot Wallstrom, the EU communications commissioner, has made an all-out plug for socialist candidate Segolene Royal in her blog.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

In an entry posted on Monday, the day after presidential elections that saw Ms Royal go through to the second round run-off on 6 May against Nicolas Sarkozy, the commissioner wrote that she "cheered" the achievements of her fellow socialist politician.

Continuing her blog in French, Ms Wallstrom says that "maybe more than anything else, I was so happy to see that a woman will take part in the second round of the presidential elections."

Noting that there are women ministers in several governments, particularly in Finland, she emphasizes that this is the first time a woman has made it through to the second round in France.

"It's historic and I wanted, as a woman involved in politics, to pay homage to Segolene Royal and wish her 'good luck' for what comes."

A spokesperson said her comments were "personal" but they reflect the increasing trend towards politicisation of the European Commission.

Dutch commissioner Neelie Kroes sparked criticism in 2005 when just days before the elections, she openly supported Angela Merkel to become chancellor of Germany.

In addition, blogs also raise the question of where the line is drawn between the personal and the public. Last year, Ms Wallstrom's comments in her blog in support of scrapping the European Parliament's seat in Strasbourg were widely reported as news.

Not above a little politics

In previous years, the commission and its commissioners - often ex-politicians themselves - tended to keep a distance between Brussels and national politics, hovering somewhat above the domestic fray.

The treaty itself says that commissioners should be impartial and work for the European cause, stipulating they must be "completely independent in the performance of their duties" in the general interest of the European community.

But as the European Union has evolved, the commission has sought to rebrand itself as more of a political entity.

This is partially as a reaction to its own commissioners, some of whom have found the corridors of power in the commission stultifying when compared to the cut and thrust of domestic politics.

At the moment, Louis Michel, the EU's commissioner for development, is on unpaid leave because he is taking part in Belgium's federal elections.

During the last commission Italian prime minister Romano Prodi actively campaigned in the general elections in Italy while still head of the Brussels executive and Greek commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou also took a leave of absence for domestic elections and then resigned after winning a seat.

The commission says this is part and parcel of the job, that its commissioners are politicians and that they do not exist in a vacuum.

Its revised code of conduct for commissioners allows them to "be active members of political parties or trade unions." If they are to play an "active" role in an election campaign they have to "withdraw from the work of the commission for the duration of the campaign."

Connecting with citizens

Some also say, including Mr Michel himself, that it is part of reconnecting with Europe's citizens.

But critics argue the practice undermines both the commission and the portfolio concerned. For their part, MEPs in the development committee have asked for a legal opinion on Mr Michel's electioneering, saying it violates the EU's treaty.

He is expected to be called before the MEPs at the beginning of next month to justify why he should be able to remain as commissioner when running in the 10 June elections.

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us