Revolving doors :  Does the European Parliament ask the right questions?

Does the European Parliament ask the right questions?


There was a time when European Commissioners were dedicated to the European Project. To be a European Commissioner was a great honour and great responsibility and it would be entrusted to people who really wanted to make a difference for Europe. It was about the project, not about them.

Reading the press about Phil Hogan’s ambitions to lead the World Trade Organization, following the footsteps of Kristalina Georgieva who resigned the Commission to head the World Bank, I cannot help but ask myself: what did these people say to the European Parliament when they were asked about their motivation? Did they put their personal career ahead of their vision of Europe, or behind it? Did they say to the Parliament: “I really want this job, but if I find a better one, I may jump.”

Going back to the records of those interviews, I found only vague statements of motivation. Nothing comparing their commitment to Europe to their commitment to their personal career ambitions.

When Martin Bangemann announced his move to Telefonica – after the resignation of the Santer Commission - there was an uproar. The same happened when Jose Manuel Barroso moved to Goldman Sachs. There is something really unsettling in the idea that public office is a step in one’s career. The public cannot trust that the person put the public interest ahead of their personal interest. And yet, putting the public interest ahead of personal interest is the most important requirement of public office.

So when I hear about Commissioners wanting to quit the Commission for a better job, I wonder about the process of selection of European Commissioners and their interview at the European Parliament. I ask myself: did these people mislead the Parliament or did the Parliament simply not ask the question?