The geographical imbalance in senior EU appointments has gone on far too longby Paul Lever / November 27, 2019 / Leave a comment
A new European Commission takes office this week. For the first time it will have a female president. The European Central Bank also now has its first female head. But in the decisions on EU senior appointments made last summer one tradition was again maintained: no citizen of the Nordic countries was selected for any of the top jobs.
Denmark has been a member of the EU since 1973, Finland and Sweden since 1995. Their three economies are among the most successful in Europe. Not only does each of them have a level of GDP per head which is larger than Germany’s: they also all score highly on all the key indices of prosperity (literacy, educational attainment, social mobility, innovation, business-friendliness and so on). They have enjoyed long histories of political stability, gender equality (Finland was the first country in Europe where women got the right to vote) and democratic accountability. Their social systems and their standards of public administration are admired throughout the world.
And yet no Dane, Finn or Swede has ever been president of the European Commission or the European Parliament or the European Council, nor the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy nor, in the case of Finland (Denmark and Sweden are not members of the eurozone), president of the European Central Bank. By contrast there have been three commission presidents from Luxembourg in the last four decades (none of them any good); two out of the three council presidents have been Belgian; two out of the four high representatives have been Spanish; and two out of the four ECB presidents have been French.
Nor have any of the EU’s policies been driven by specifically Nordic influence. There have been effective individual commissioners from the Nordic countries: in the outgoing commission, Margrethe Vestager at competition and Cecilia Malmstrom at foreign trade were both highly rated. But it is hard to identify any field in which the EU has developed in a way which specifically reflects Nordic practice or preference.
So why are these three countries so politically invisible in the EU?
One answer is lack of ambition. They haven’t got the top jobs because they have…