Thoughts from the Loo

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Friday, October 29, 2004

[E][P] The Buttiglione Affair

Two weeks ago "Charlemagne", a columnist for "The Economist" wrote that European Parliament is playing "an intoxicating game of 'let's pretend'", pretending that is was a real parliament, deciding about a real cabinet. Of course, the matter at hand was confirmation hearings before parliamentary commitees, which Rocco Buttiglione, nominated for justice and home portfolio, failed. ("The Economist" thinks that nomination of José Manuel Barroso for Commission president was also result of such pretension games.) Charlemagne noted that the Parliament has no power to reject individual commissioners, and that "the nuclear option" of rejecting the whole commission was unthinkable. Buttiglione was almost a random victim, said Charlemagne; what about a handful of other nominees with very checkered track record, or being too close to industry and various lobying groups, or simply not looking all that competent?

Well, Mr. Barroso withdrew his cabinet from confirmation vote when he realized the Parliament would go for the "nuclear option". Mr. Buttiglione decided to stand aside (although his national government, i.e. Mr. Berlusconi, stood behind him, and Catholic Church mounted quite a campaign in his support), but Barroso was told this would not be enough. It seems MEPs really do have concerns about some of those other commissioner nominees.

What is "Charlemagne's" comment now? This migth be a case of elected politicians asserting themselves against the bureaucrats (and their own governments), and the Parliament might have gained new admirers, but perhaps they should stick to benefits of quiet obscurity... It seems that European Parliament can do no right, in "Charlemagne's" opinion.

News outfits like CNN reacted to this development with assorted worried noises about "the future" of the Union, "credibility" of the Commission, even the Parliament, things like that. Is it so strange for an elected body to do its job? Apparently so, for many.

BTW, I agree that a guy with Kirche, Kueche, Kinder outlook at women's place in the world who thinks about other people's behaviour in their bedrooms in terms like "sin" has no place in Europe's executive branch. I thought that his sincereness during confirmation hearing about his beliefs was quite commendable and unusual for your typical politician. However, he soon returned to business as usual, trying to paint himself a kind of martyr (see here). Perhaps he was sincere because he misjudged commitee's "balance of power", and then again, perhaps I am just cynical.

Anyway, this incident can be interpreted as a part of long struggle the smallest European (and world's, I think) country, that is, Vatican, leads to stop decline of its influence on the continent. It is said that Margaret Thatcher considered all this EU affair a "Catholic conspiracy". Indeed, it looked as if the Church has good shot at cramming a line on "Christian foundations" of Europe into preamble of the new Constitution. But I think that, after the wave of fresh Catholics who all of sudden found their faith in coutries like Poland or Slovenia subides and only actually religious people are left in churches, such efforts at "de-secularization" of Europe will gradually cease. In the meantime, the Buttiglione affair is sure not to be the last we have heard about the place of "official religion" Vatican would like to be has in the continent's political life.

Wow, this started as a one-liner about Buttiglione's honesty; then "The European's" take was added, and look at it now....

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