In his latest blog Hristo notes the fact that in Bulgaria some political heavyweights have entered the European arena. A number of contestants with quite an impressive Euro-résumé have declared themselves eligible for the EP elections. The current lay-out of the European Parliament shows a similar picture: the former sort-of President of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis, the Spanish ex-Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, 1968 revolutionary Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Jean-Luc Dehaene, who has been Prime-Minister of Belgium. In a short report Dutch public broadcaster NOS showed that all of them are currently occupying one of the seats in the Espace Leopold. In a performance on Dutch television Guy Verhofstadt (it seems to me as if he is a lot more popular in the Netherlands than he is in his own Belgium) even spoke of a tradition among Belgian premiers to move from the one Parliament building in Brussels, to the other.
The idea that actual political heavyweights move to Brussels, not to become a Commissioner, but as an MEP is hard to conceive for the Dutch.
I think this year is the first time that a number of experienced MP’s on the national level can also be found on the European party lists; and still we are talking here about politicians that did not even make it to the top 10 of the list for the 2006 national elections.
It would almost lead you to thinking that in the Netherlands the A-list politicians try to stay away as far as possible from Europe: almost none of the actual party-leaders have engaged in the European debate and all of them seem to focus solely on national matters. Europe is left to those who have not made it to the inner circles of their own party. Liberal candidate Hans van Baalen is so afraid to lose his position in the governmental capital of the Netherlands, The Hague, that he has declared that even after his election to the EP he will not move to Brussels. Which provoked his Green opponent Judith Sargentini to sharply remark: “So you want to go to Brussels, but actually you don’t really want to go?”
As such, I must admit that I look with a certain jealousy to other fellow European countries where at least the politicians themselves seem to take Europe seriously. However, there is another side of the coin: to what extent do the former presidents, prime ministers and secretaries go to Brussels to help and work on a better Europe, and to what extent do these political Mastodons use Europe as their last chance not to be forgotten?