The Government Europe Deserves?

BRUSSELS – With the final allocation of portfolios within its executive branch, the European Commission, the European Union has completed its change of guard. The process took almost four months, following the European Parliament election in late May, and the end result was inevitably based on a series of compromises – to be expected for an EU of 28 prickly nation-states.

Indeed, the proper functioning of EU institutions requires that no important constituency (left or right, East or West, and so forth) feels left out. And the new European Commission looks rather strong, given that more than 20 of its 28 members previously served as prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, or ministers. People who have held high political office at home find it worthwhile to come to Brussels.

But most attention has focused on the EU’s three top positions: the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council, and the High Representative for external affairs.

The Commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was the first ever to be selected based on his faction’s strong showing in the European Parliament election. As a seasoned Brussels insider, he was not one to move the crowds. But sometimes this can be an advantage. An insider knows best how to reconcile contrasting interests and how to get the institutional machinery moving again, as Juncker showed with his deft handling of the distribution of tasks among the individual Commissioners.