The Problem with the President (EU Edition) – VisualPolitik EN


Let me ask you a question…
Do you know this woman?
Her name is URSULA VON DER LEYEN.
I must confess, I had never heard of her…
till a month ago.
And just like me, neither had most Europeans.
So this woman is about to become the next
EU Commission President.
She will be the equivalent of Donald Trump
in the European Union: the most powerful person
in Europe.
And this is already official: on November
1st, she will take the oath.
And OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking…
especially those of you who voted in the European
elections…
Who is this woman?
I mean… where does she come from?
Why… her?
Well, I think Erik can give us more information.
Of course, Simon.
As you know, on May 2019 Europeans went to
the polling stations to choose the members
of the European Parliament.
These are legislative elections similar to
the Midterms in America or the parliamentary
elections in the UK.
So, the name of Ursula Von der Leyen wasn’t
on any ballot.
Back then, she was just the Defense Minister
of Germany.
Germans knew her but other Europeans… not
so much.
And I know what you’re thinking… this
process is completely legal.
In EU elections, Europeans don’t get to
choose the executive power—just the legislative
one.
So, technically, anybody could become president
of the commission as long as the Parliament
accepts him or her.
In other words, this is totally possible law-wise…
but politics-wise, it is kind of weird.
Just to give an example: many people in the
UK complained about Boris Johnson becoming
the Prime Minister.
But, to be fair, Johnson is well known and
he was a member of the parliament.
The situation with Von der Leyen would be
like choosing the mayor of Liverpool as Prime
Minister just because.
And yes, it is true, Von der Leyen’s appointment
is a historical event: she will be the first
woman to rule Europe.
Her name will appear next to other pioneers
like Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher.
And maybe she’ll become a big historical
figure like them.
She might become a great president.
But today’s question is…
Can we say the European Union is a real democracy
if Von Der Leyen was chosen without being
voted in?
What’s the EU Commission’s president’s
role?
Today we are going to answer those questions,
but before we do, let’s take a look back
at the history.
THE BRUSSELS BUBBLE
In the year 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was
signed.
We could say this was the moment when the
European Union, with its capital in Brussels,
started.
Until that moment, the European Single Market
was only what the name suggested: a market.
A very big free trade agreement that included
almost all of Western and Southern Europe.
But it had almost no political power.
The European Union was a giant step because
it meant that now all those countries would
be bonded by a common government.
Years later, creations like the EURO currency,
the Schengen Area, and many other treaties
were possible.
And you might wonder… could we say that
the EU is similar to the United States?
Does it work as a federation, as a confederation?
Well… it is hard to say.
In fact, European institutions are really
hard to understand.
And usually the media doesn’t really help
with this.
You often hear news saying ‘Brussels said
this’ or ‘Brussels demands that thing’
but, in fact, there are 3 institutions based
in Brussels and all three are different from
one another, with different roles.
But don’t worry.
You can understand it all very easily with
an example you all know: Article 13.
In case you don’t know, Article 13 is the
common name for that EU directive on copyright
that affects YouTubers so much.
I’m sure you heard a lot about it.
But this time, let’s not focus on what it
says, but instead on how it got passed.
It all starts with the EUROPEAN COUNCIL.
This is the place where the prime ministers
of all the EU member countries meet and say
‘OK, guys, we need a legislation to regulate
online copyright’.
They write some general guidelines and send
it to the next guy: the EUROPEAN COMMISSION.
The commission would be the equivalent of
the White House or Downing Street: this is
the executive power in Europe.
They have a president, a vice president, and
some commissioners that are similar to a minister
or a secretary of state.
So those guys read the guidelines written
by the COUNCIL and write a legislative proposal,
which would be the first draft for legislation.
Once they’re finished, they send it to the
legislative body, which is the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT.
This parliament works in a very similar fashion
to the US capitol or the house of commons
in the UK… but it has something unique.
Its members cannot come up with their own
ideas.
They can only discuss the proposals sent by
the commission.
For example, in the US, Ocassio Cortez is
only a congresswoman, but she can come up
with her Green New Deal and try to make it
pass through Congress.
A European MP couldn’t.
This means that the EU Parliament is much
weaker than a normal one.
So coming back to the Article 13… after
the European Parliament discusses it, they
come up with their own version of the law.
But there are still many details to polish.
If you remember the video we made about article
13, a small detail in a piece of legislation
can change an entire industry.
So this is where we get to the trialogues.
Trialogue is a process where representatives
from those three institutions—the council,
the commission, and the parliament—meet
again to discuss the law.
And finally, we have the final, polished and
discussed legislation.
The final stage is when the trialogue sends
this law back to the parliament.
In this case, the MEPs can vote yes or no,
but they cannot add anymore amendments.
So, as we said before, in this system, the
Commission has a lot of power because they
are the only ones who can send a legislative
draft to the parliament.
This is why this is such a very important
question…
WHO gets to choose the president of the Commission?
And here is where the BIG debate starts.
The president is chosen by the EU Council
and ratified by the Parliament.
That is, the prime ministers of all the EU
countries get to decide who the president
will be and then the parliament votes in favor
or against.
This leaves the parliament in a very weak
position because they can only say yes or
no, but, again, they cannot propose anybody.
And this is why, 5 years ago, some politicians
proposed the SPITZENKANDIDATEN system.
In this system, each political party running
for the elections must have one candidate
for President.
So if you vote for, say, the social democrats,
you know that they’ll fight for this specific
candidate to be the EU president.
Sounds fair, right?
Well… there is a problem.
Many political parties don’t agree with
this.
Think about it… right now, the council can
choose anybody to be president.
With this proposed system, they could only
choose from a very short list of SPITZENKANDIDATEN
proposed by the parties.
So for years, the SPITZENKANDIDATEN system
became sort of a gentlemen’s deal.
Parties kind of followed this system, but
it wasn’t written down anywhere.
This is how the former EU President, JEAN
CLAUDE JUNCKER, was elected in 2014.
His made a coalition government between social
democrats and the People’s party.
And now you might wonder…
What happened during the 2019 elections?
Well… what usually happens with gentlemen’s
deals… some gentlemen just break them.
In this case, the Social democrats and the
People’s party didn’t have enough seats
to make a government.
They needed the support of the liberals…
and liberals don’t want the spitzenkandidaten
system.
But… why don’t they want it?
And why did they end up choosing the German
Defense minister?
Let’s have a look, shall we?
SPITZENKANDIDATEN?
NON MERCI
In Brussels, they call it the EU Top5 jobs—the
5 most powerful political positions.
Those positions are: the president of the
Commission, the Vice president who deals with
foreign affairs, the president of the Parliament,
the president of the Council and the president
of the European Central Bank.
These 5 guys are the ultimate decision makers
in Europe.
So the question is… who gets to choose them?
The answer is the Council.
Again, the council is made up of the prime
ministers of all the member countries.
Then they need the approval of the Parliament.
With the spitzenkandidaten system, they would
have a bigger say in this because, at least,
the parties can say who the eligible candidates
are.
So who is in favour of this?
Of course, the biggest political parties.
Who is against it?
Well… think about it.
Macron’s party rejects Spitzenkandidat process
Macron, the French president, belongs to the
liberal party, which is the third Group.
In other words, not a big deal.
But, as the President of the second biggest
country in Europe, he has a strong position
on the council.
Basically, having the second largest economy
in the Union gives you a lot of leverage to
negotiate with the other countries.
This is why usually we talk about the French-German
axis.
Those two economies usually lead all the negotiations.
So, basically, Macron has a big incentive
to keep the power of the council as it is
now.
And Germany, being the largest country both
in population and in economics, is happy too.
So, at the end of the day, Macron and Merkel
sat together and said…
‘No spitzenkandidaten… we choose a German
Commission president and a French president
for the European Central Bank’.
And since Germany and France have the most
leverage on the council, the rest of the countries
said ‘Amen’.
And
this is when Ursula Von der Leyen came into
the picture.
Basically, she’s the perfect poster child
for the European Union: she’s German but
she was born and raised in Belgium, Speaks
5 languages and has friends everywhere.
Basically, she’s the kind of charismatic
person who everyone wants to be around at
a cocktail party.
So as soon as they introduced her to the members
of the council, the council accepted her.
And I know what you’re gonna say…
Come on, Simon!
That can’t be it!
You see, when we make political analyses,
we often try to use economic data, surveys,
and complex strategies to understand a politician’s
behaviour.
We often forget that politics are carried
out by humans like you and me.
So, sometimes, something as stupid as telling
the right joke to the right person at the
right cocktail party can drive big political
decisions.
In Europe, this kind of political maneuvering
has a name: the Brussels Bubble.
And who did they choose for the President
of the European Central Bank?
Well… in this case, a French woman, Cristine
Lagarde, the former IMF president.
This is a great deal for Macron.
Basically, he’s killing two birds with one
stone.
He puts a French person in power, and he makes
sure Lagarde won’t run against him.
Christine Lagarde, la présidente rêvée
des Français
The rest of the top Jobs went to Spain, Italy,
and the liberals.
But… let’s be honest here, the biggest
winners were Germany and France.
David Passoli, an Italian social democrat,
will become the next EU Parliament president.
Josep Borrell will become the vice president,
and the Belgium liberal, Charles Michel, will
lead the Council.
So, OK, now the big question is… what is
the next step?
How does Ursula Von der Layene get to choose
the commissioners?
Let’s have a look.
VON DER LEYEN’S TEAM
According to many surveys, the main reason
why Britons voted in favor of BREXIT was not
regulations or immigration but a lack of citizen
control over EU affairs.
And… after everything we’ve said, we must
admit there is a little bit of truth to that.
And you could say…
Oh no!
The parliament still could have rejected Von
der Leyen as the president!
Well… look at how people can change their
opinion on the Brussels Bubble.
THIS is what the People’s party Spitzenkandidaten,
MANFRED WEBER, said one day…
Weber urges EU lawmakers to push back against
decisions made in ‘diplomats back rooms’
And look at what he said just one month later…
Germany’s Weber urges EU lawmakers to back
von der Leyen in top job vote
So it doesn’t seem to be a debate.
At least, not a transparent one that we can
see in the parliament.
It seems that most of the decisions are make
in a private room in that Brussels bubble.
So now you might wonder… what happens next?
What can we expect from Von der Leyen once
she gets into office?
The first thing she’ll have to do is to
name the commissioners.
As we said before, the commissioners are the
equivalent of a minister or a secretary of
state in the European Union.
There must be 28: one for each member country.
This means that, for example, you couldn’t
have two German or two Italian commissioners.
But, of course, it’s not the same being
the commissioner in charge of finance, a very
important spot, as the one in charge of humanitarian
aid.
It will be Von der Leyen’s job to decide
who does what.
So far, all we know is that the new Government
of Europe will have parity between genders:
there will be as many female commissioners
as male commissioners.
And this is where the EU Parliament has the
biggest say.
Because, right after Von der Leyen names her
commissioners, they will have to pass a test
on the Parliament.
And yes, those tests are not simple.
It’s common for some commissioners to not
pass it.
For example, in 2014, the Slovenian candidate
failed at the Parliament’s hearings and
they had to choose another person from the
same country.
So, yes, Von Der Leyen will not have it that
easy.
In this regard, it’s a very effective check
and balance.
But now the questions go to you…
Do you think Macron did the right thing by
avoiding the spitzenkandidaten system?
Are the euroskeptics right to complain about
the lack of democracy in Europe?
Please, leave your answers in the comment
section below.
Also visit our friends from reconsider media.com,
the podcast that provided the vocals in this
episode that were not mine.
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If you liked this video, give us a thumbs
up and, as always, I’ll see you next time.

100 comments

  1. F… Democracy, someone might say. Trump got "democratically" elected. Do you want a Trump in EU?
    That was I think Putin's goal all along.

  2. Probably the last video I watch on mobile your channel has just way too many ads. It seems to pop up every couple of minutes. I don't think the videos on the computer has as many it a shame since I ready like your videos.

  3. You got a few things wrong but apart from that good video.
    Things you got wrong:

    The President of the european commission has far less power and influence than the president of the US and is only a very limited head of government. And is most certainly not the most powerfull person in the EU.

    The european council consists of the heads of government of the member states, some of which are prime ministers(UK) some of which aren't (exaples: chancellor(Germany), president(France)).

    There are 6 vice presidents of the comission. One of which is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (this is also the most importand vice president).

    The trialogue is not between the comission, parliament and european council but comission, parliament and council of the european union (aka council of ministers). People often mix up the european council, council of the european union and council of europe but they have very diffrent jobs.

    The council of ministers also votes on most EU laws including article 13.

  4. Not addressing the reasons behind the rejection of Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans, the latter being rejected by the Visegrád Four, and blaming it bluntly on France and German desire for power is a somewhat rash conclusion. :/

  5. You missed important details my friend, such as how the EUCO pres doesn’t nom any commissioners but negotiates with governments and, according to Junker (re 2014), can reject names informally.

  6. There's an old story that went… A European man came to America and asked a cowboy where his master was.

    The cowboy spit a bit of tobacco on the ground and replied: "That sunavabitch ain't been born yet"

  7. Seriously, these videos are great but the host speaks in such an annoying way, you just have to stop watching. Please, for the love of god, tone down your speech! It is so over the top that people want to shut off the show rather than listen to that voice.

  8. yup sounds about right as to why i voted for brexit no accountability people just doing whatever the fuck they want with very little control by the people. I mean would the expenses scandal happen in the eu of course not because they don't even have to expense anything they just get given the money wtf its repeated stories like that made me think no one is keeping an eye or can do anything to stop what the eu is doing as there is little or no oversight or accountability by the people

  9. There is a lack of democracy in Europe, because nations have too much power, we must federalise and give more power to the EU therefore it'd be easier to get a semi direct democracy

    The union was OK till 2000, the confederation was OK till 2016, now we need a federation because without one we won't function as an examplary democracy and country

    Besides Ursula has a very weak position, the EU is antipresidentialist AkA it has a decentralized power so in reality the parties who were voted have all the control

    It's not like the US where the president has a lot of power, here she's only a slightly more powerful mp

  10. @simon Bro get some new glasses the scratches in on the bridge are showing up badly, i know its a weird thing to say but i used to work in optics 🙂 and it distracts me from your excellent videos 🙂

  11. It simply makes no sense any of this. I will never get how some people can support an institution that no one truly understands, ran by people that nobody knows, set to pursue unclear and unspecified goals that the general public never have set or discussed.

    Ahhh, we Europeans truly have a thing for useless bureaucratic clusterfucks.

  12. Your Videos are realy great, but this time you've forgotten the fact that von der Laien has grate problems at home because her ministry of defence spends hugh amounts of Money for external advisors.

  13. Europe's idea of democracy: "Voters, you didn't make the right choice. Not to worry though. We'll let you vote again, or as many times as necessary."

  14. As an American I never really understood why Britain wanted to leave the EU, the reasons I heard were the VAT sucks, regulations and immigrants… so I kind of thought they were making mountains out of mole hills, but I could get behind wanting to leave over this bullshit it seems undemocratic as fuck, like that's even worse than the bullshit electoral college… why didn't Brexiter's give the nonsense way they pick the president of the EU as their reason for leaving, enough said….

  15. If you want a really easy video to make try this. What's wrong with the president? (Prime minister) UK edition. I could go on for hours about how much is wrong with Boris Johnson and how much I detest him.

  16. No the European Union is not a democracy. Your vote is worth more depending on which sovereign State you live in. In the UK there is one MEP for every 875,289 people, in Germany one MEP for every 838,789 people, in Greece one MEP for every 526,786 people, in Malta one MEP for 70,227 people. This is not democracy, this is indefensible.

  17. Recent events have shown democracy is not a particularly effective safeguard against bad leaders. It increases social mobility in the political realm but is that necessarily a good thing?

  18. saying the EU president not being democratic is like saying the US isn't democratic because the president alone appoints thousands of jobs in the administration

  19. So the French and Germans rule Europe? Ah, so Hitler’s and Napoleon’s dream of ruling the rest of Europe came true.

  20. the weird thing about elections is that we arnt even really doing anything, we might aswell randomly pick some people without some algorithm and be done with it. everything is a lie

  21. I hope the EU collapses sometime soon. People don't need more government over their national governments. Europe needs to become regular countries again.

  22. Almost nobody in Germany is Happy about Von der Leyen getting any job that affects them, because she proved to be increadible incompetent in anything she did

  23. None of these people represent the populations of Europe, it's a closed system that's controlled by the deep state. They are all servants to groups like the illuminati and other criminal satanist organisations. You do not get into these positions of power unless you are vetted, compromised and willing to betray humanity for money and power. This is what "leads" our countries.. Wake up people.

  24. The EU and People's republic of China are head to head in winning this year's most undemocratic government pretending to be democratic award.

  25. YOU ARE AN IGNORANT….
    COWBOY…..
    MOST OF PEOPLE IN EUROPE KNOW VON DER LEYEN….
    Most do not Know You,,, or Johnson….
    SHE IS Daughter Ernst Albrecht CDU..
    Minister President of Lower Saxony
    Politician,,, HIgh Ranking European Civil
    Servant already in 1958….
    She was a local politician in Hannover Region.. As well… So just check…
    And Nobody,,, knew you
    or
    Boris Johnson…..
    So your Story is ,,,, UNTRUE….

  26. 1:46 did he just say ''many people in the u gay'' ???!!
    ..talk like a normal person!! these videos are unbearable at times!

  27. In Denmark we have a saying “I Bryssel kan ingen høre dig skrige” – “in Brussels no one can hear you scream”.

    The EU is were we send disgraced politicians who have friends in high places our have been in the game for a long time and they just want a good pension. I could also be prominent politicians that are very popular and may challenge the leader of their political party, this happens to current EMP Søren Gade who is immensely popular in Denmark and many people wanted him to replace the PM of his own party Lars Løkke Rasmussen. So LLR promptly sent him to Brussels to remain leader of his party.

  28. Simone this is the only I strongly disagree with you very very much disagree you u was right on so many points and yet so wrong this was ur bias talking Angela Merkel was against Macron's was for her when did u became so bias

  29. Its shit like this that cause things like Brexit. On top of how utterly undemocratic the entire process is, I remember someone saying that the EU is just a retirement home for European politicians who have been turfed out by their own voters. Considering that the two most powerful men in the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker is suspected of financial fraud in Luxembourg and Donald Tusk is utterly despised by his own nation, Ursula Von Der Lyan is in good company, having utterly failed as a German Minister and fallen from heir of Merkel to an embarrassment to be rid of.

    The EU is rotten to the core. Another HRE that needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up if any realistic dream of European unity is to be realised.

  30. Honestly, i wish the House voted for the President instead of the people in America. Then people like Trump would never have a chance.

  31. Simon, how are the Bilderbergers involved in choosing the leaders in the EU? I know they are a very very elite group and many leaders go there before they become leaders. The group is not at all one to be open to the media though.
    I have heard many conspiracy theories, but I would love to hear your take on them too. Epstien as well while you are at it

  32. Did you intend to call Germany and France an 'axis'? Interesting word use…

    Germany and France just railroaded control over the EU and the Central Bank…effectively controlling Europe to their own benefit at the cost of the other member countries. Democracy? What democracy?

  33. My dear friend. Your channel does show a lot of personal interest for world events and also a certain expectation of some sort of standard that you appear to expect of yourself in producing your videos. However, my English friend, could there be some bias directed towards Germany somewhere within you? I see a pattern. See, you are not solely wrong about the pronunciation of German words , you also appear to take political positions that are stereotypical for an English person on one hand and that appear to be nothing other than personal opinions on the other. I am sure you can do better than that. Human beings educated within one of the rightly renowned institutions of your homeland should do better. I have received my education at King's and I am a German national. Unfortunately, there is a lot of lameness there my friend. Further, there are also blatant mistakes concerning bare facts. I am sure you can do better. First of all, make an effort for your personal feelings not to shine through.

  34. Unelected and unaccountable. The E.U. is nothing but a authoritarian cleptocracy. In fact it's structure I eerily similar to the Soviet Union. Thank god the U.K. is pulling out and many other countries are considering exiting also.
    Thank God I'm American.

  35. The EU is just a Franco-German Empire. The EU Parliament is powerless. They can only make recommendations to the unelected Commission, which Germany & France control.

  36. Nationalists who complain about the lack of democracy in the European Union don't really have a leg to stand on. The selection method for the President of Europe is so convoluted because the leaders of nation-states insist on so much power. Even then, these national leaders who choose the President were elected, so the President of Europe is indirectly elected.

  37. Von der Leyen (Fflintenuschi in germany 😉 ) just destroyed the german defense ministry, now she's about to destroy the next, even bigger thing…

  38. Simon is definitely becoming way more expressive in these newer videos. I don't know what's happening man, but I'm glad you're happy

  39. The problem with the EU is the trilogue, AKA "menage a trois". If you thought U.S politics are messed up, well EU does it better, but I digress.

  40. How on earth do the citizens of the EU constituent nation-states not bristle at this kind of governance? It very much seems to be the usurpation the sovereign governments and policies that the voters chose.
    Is a common market really worth that?

  41. Generally, I like your videos but this one is missing out so many puzzle pieces of the entire process and contains numerous misleading statements that I can take it hardly serious.

    You missed out to talk about the transnational lists issue which was supposed to be the second iteration of the prime candidate principle, but was essentially blocked by the EPP (dominated by German CDU), because they feared losing too many votes to the right. Even leading them to nominate weak Weber. The S&D on the other hand made the political mistake to nominate the candidate most hated in the Visegrad states. Which you also missed to point out.

    In my opinion this is among the main reasons that lead to the blockade in the EU council. I totally agree with you that it now seems like a back room agreement, and I feel the position should have went to someone who is at least member of the parliament.

    Let us all hope that von der Leyen's political agenda succeeds to bring the transnational lists and right of initiatives to the next election of parliament. This would advance democracy in the EU tremendously.

    Hopefully, the current confederational system gets also reformed somehow, like the power of the EU council is reduced to that of a proper second chamber of a legislation. So that we have a proper legal body as in other republics of Europe.

  42. Brussels has become a career hospice for failed politicians who would not win any election in their member countries to go and finish up their careers with very good retirement packages.

  43. I don't think there is a true democracy in Europe. I am sure it never was and there is a general fear of having one.

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