The lack of talent at the top of the organisation has been laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic which highlighted rifts between member states in early stages and has culminated in a disastrous vaccination strategy. Mistakes by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over Covid-19 and EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell over Russia policy have left member states dumbfounded.
But Camino Mortera-Martinez, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said if EU governments were wondering who appointed such unsuitable people to such important positions, they do not have far to look.
Ms Mortera-Martinez said even the nominees were surprised to see their names put forward for the top jobs when the new leadership team was formed after the European elections in 2019.
She said: “None of the EU’s new leaders were first choices.
“This had little to do with their seniority and experience, and everything to do with the ever-complex world of EU politics, where consensus, institutional turf wars and quotas often trump political strategy.”
She continued: “The combination of factors that have to be considered make choosing the right candidates for the job difficult at the best of times.
“But at worst, it weakens the EU both internally, by pitching governments against the Brussels institutions, and externally, by failing to show a coherent front to the world.
“The current problems with the EU leadership are a direct result of the inability, or unwillingness, of European governments to agree on a team that had a clear and strong vision for Europe.”
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Ms von der Leyen sparked outrage at the height of the EU vaccine debacle when she tried to prevent shots being exported from the bloc to the UK via Northern Ireland by invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol which effectively created a hard border across the island.
She was forced into a swift and humiliating climbdown but the incident exposed the shortcomings of her decision-making process and a total lack of understanding of the sensitive Irish border issue.
Ms von der Leyen’s foreign affairs representative Mr Borrell has also been singled out for criticism after a shambolic trip to Moscow last month which was widely described as humiliating.
Ms Mortera-Martinez said: “EU governments are upset about the way Von der Leyen has managed the vaccine fiasco.
“Some are livid at Borrell’s seemingly free-standing diplomacy.
“But they are simply getting what they paid for.
“In patching together a leadership team with no clear common plan or direction, leaders were setting themselves up for failure.”