In Brussels, the power struggle for the four top-jobs has begun: President of the European Commission, President of the European Council, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Secretary-General of NATO. Some candidates are waiting in the corridors, others are shouting from the rooftops. Many candidates are thereby tempted by the seven deadly sins that lead them straight to the abyss:
1. Whoever asks, does not receive. In 1994, the Dutch Prime Minister Lubbers launched his candidacy for the presidency of the European Commission. He knew that the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, didn't want him, so he travelled throughout the EU to lobby. As did the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt in 2004. Neither got the EU job. They pushed too much: the louder the lobbying, the greater the resistance.
2. Hoping for a coalition of small countries. There's no such thing. Lubbers was trying to get smaller countries behind him, but failed completely. His rival was the Belgian prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, also from a small country. Kohl supported Dehaene but his candidacy was killed by a British veto. Eventually, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jacques Santer, won the bid. Larger countries can easily tear apart a coalition of small countries.
The official dogma in Brussels is: ´Citizens will feel closer to Europe, if European politics is about domestic politics´. This goal has been reached now, but it is not clear whether voters will show their love for Europe at the upcoming elections next year. Perhaps Europe is getting too close. Martin Sommer, a columnist with the Volkskrant, foresees a coup by the federalists in the European Parliament. Unfortunately that is the dream of many MEP's, with their answer to everything being: ´we need more Europe.´ Is Mr Sommer's nightmare justifiable?
It´s too early to predict how the European Parliament will look like next year with 751 members, but some trends in the Member States can give us an indication:
1. The European Christian-Democrats, who won the elections in 2009, will take a big hit as a result of the economic crisis. They became the ruling political family in 2009, but they didn’t see the crisis coming and so were overtaken by events. The Centre-Right in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and other countries is being punished because of the crisis. The European Socialists can recover. The French Socialist will lose, but the British Labour Party - that lost the election in 2009 - will be resurrected. Christian-Democrats and Socialists will compete to be the biggest group at around 220 seats.
President Obama is in a digital two-front war. The computers of the National Security Agency (NSA) are so modern that they can spy on the citizens of the world, including their leaders. The computers of Obamacare, the federal program for a universal health insurance, are so dysfunctional that the software blocked at the start. As things stand, there are more Americans who lost their insurance than Americans who managed to get new insurance. But the President of Hope and Change knows nothing. He is utterly unaware.
Obama claimed to know nothing about the NSA spying on foreign - especially allied - leaders. The German weekly Der Spiegel shows this week how the NSA is spying on Germany, starting with the mobile phone of Chancellor Merkel. This is a sensitive issue in a country that has both the Gestapo and the Stasi in its collective memory. Bild am Sonntag argues that NSA Director Keith Alexander informed Obama in 2010 about the spying on Merkel. Obama would want to know everything and would have asked to make a 'file'. The NSA said Monday, at the insistence of the White House, that Obama 'knew nothing'.
This isn't very credible. On 1 September it turned out that the NSA was overhearing calls of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Obama tried to soothe the incident and claimed 'to know nothing', but the Brazilians were so angry that Rousseff canceled a state visit to the U.S. If Obama had been more alert, he would have stopped spying on allies at that point. But he did not and stayed vague ('others do it too') until it appeared that 35 state leaders are on the NSA radar.