From one circus to another

From one circus to another
By Stefan Grobe
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In this edition we look at how Commissioners-to-be had a delicate balancing act as MEPs grilled them on their possible portfolios and how new Brexit plans launched a new blame game. From political circus acts to real ones, we look at how European circuses want to be taken more seriously.


This week it was showtime for the nominees for the European Commission.

In individual three-hour hearings before committees of the European Parliament, the candidates, handpicked by their governments, had to pass the ultimate test.

Are they competent? Do they know all the details of their portfolios? And what are their policy ideas going forward?

That's what the members of parliament wanted to find out.

Yet some nominees were struggling.


The hearings did something extraordinary: they overshadowed the ongoing Brexit saga.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented a last-minute proposal to the EU to end the stalemate that the British have created.

It's all about the tricky Irish border situation and whether there should be controls or not – the infamous backstop.

Turns out Johnson cannot square the circle. His proposal was considered just cosmetics and was therefore shut down by EU officials.

Council president Donald Tusk tweeted that the EU is still standing fully behind Ireland and that Johnson did not convince Brussels.

Similar comments came from Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker, by the way, also had strong words after the WTO ruled that the United States was entitled to punitive tariffs in retaliation of European Airbus subsidies.

Speaking at a gala reception hosted by the American ambassador, here's what Juncker had to say:

 “We will always defend free and fair trade based on a level playing field and reciprocity. We will not be naive, but we are ready, willing and determined to business. And if someone is imposing tariffs on our aviation sector, we'll do exactly the same.”


As we see every week, politics can be quite entertaining.

But don't say that politics is like a circus.


That would be demeaning to an honorable industry.

The European Parliament believes that the circus business should get more attention and be taken really seriously.

Next week

On Monday, the hearings of the EU Commissioners-designate continue with Vera Jourova and Josep Borrell.

On Tuesday, the EU Interior ministers meet in Luxembourg to deal with immigration.


And on Thursday the Swedish Academy announces two Nobel prize laureates for literature, one for 2018 and one for 2019 following last year's internal controversy.

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