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.
3. Picking a fight with one of the big three: Germany, France or the UK. If one of the three big countries doesn't want a candidate, he won't make it. Lubbers ran up against Germany, Dehaene and Verhofstadt against Britain. In the past, countries had a veto. Since the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council decides on the nomination of the Commission's President by qualified majority. Legally, no single country can block a candidacy, but the big three have a tacit understanding: if one of them does not want the candidate, he will be opposed by all three of them. Because of the coalition of the big three, there's still a political veto.
4. Preaching federalism. The candidate who does this essentially declares war against Britain. A British Prime Minister is only 'a real man in the British parliament' after he has decapitated a 'federalist' in Brussels. John Major did it with Dehaene, Blair with Verhofstadt. Others often hid behind British resistance. Under prime minister Verhofstadt, Belgium advertised itself as a 'model country. It ended up quarrelling with Italy, Austria and Poland. These countries tacitly supported British resistance. In 2004, the leader of the German Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel, also rejected Verhofstadt. Now she's German chancellor.
5. Confusing strategy with tactics. Candidates for an EU job sometimes stumble over their own feet. Dutch PM Balkenende wanted to become president of the European Council, but the Netherlands also wanted to provide the Secretary-General. Result: nothing. The Lisbon Treaty has changed the procedure for the appointment of the Commission President. The European Council should "take into account" the results of the European elections. The European parliament interprets this too broadly; they think they "supply the candidates". Verhofstadt and European Parliament President Martin Schulz are already marching on parade. But the parliament has no monopoly on candidatures. They can equally come from elsewhere. The rule still is: the European Council nominates, the European Parliament approves.
6. Lacking experience. Until recently, the European Council chose a prime minister from their own circle for the Commission presidency. He thus had some experience - although Santer and Prodi proved to be weak figures. Without governing experience, it is difficult to lead a bureaucratic apparatus like the Commission, the European Council or NATO. European officials have to pass a tough entrance exam, which would be too difficult for their bosses. Their only requirement is 'managerial experience'.
7. Not fitting into the puzzle. If the Commission President is German, the President of the European Council needs to come from Southern or Eastern Europe. The distribution of top positions should reflect geographical and political balance. So, you better first liquidate competitors from your own country.
In this power game, Verhofstadt committed sins 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. That makes him unappointable. Ex-prime minister Dehaene discouraged him from becoming a candidate, but Verhofstadt sees himself as the European 'Moses'. The problem for Moses was that he never reached the Promised Land. The administrative experience of Schulz is limited to the mayoralty of Würselen and Prince of the Carnival. He falls for sin 6, but Schulz has a raw power instinct and prepares his way forward carefully. However, there's a good chance that the top jobs end up with people now maintaining strategic silence. Brussels is obsessed with these four jobs. Meanwhile there are 26.6 million unemployed Europeans looking for a job, too.