Europe Explained – Brexit and Berlaymont: Brussels in limbo – BrusselsViewpoint – Denise Grech
The last few months of 2019 were meant to be fast-paced, exciting times for the EU: a new Commission was meant to be set up and Brexit was supposed to go through.
Instead, Brussels is stuck in limbo. The arrival of Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission is delayed at least until the start of December or maybe even into the next year. Brexit, on the other hand, has been officially postponed until the end of January, or maybe even until… well, who knows anymore.
French commissioner-designate Sylvie Goulard was was the last to be rejected earlier this month. Her hearing was strong on policy, but that didn’t count for much. Back in her country, she was being investigated into possible misuse of EU funds for payments to a parliamentary assistant, and about her highly paid side job with a U.S think tank. “How many French people earn €13,000 for making phone calls?” Virginie Joron, from the French far-right National Rally, had asked.
Hungary’s candidate, László Trócsányi, who was to oversee neighborhood policy and enlargement, and Romania’s nominee, Rovana Plumb, intended as transport commissioner, were also shot down.
Ursula von der Leyen has now formally nominated France’s Thierry Breton and Hungary’s Olivér Várhelyi as new nominees.
The Romanians have obliged with a new nominee but it seems that they missed the mark, so it could be a while before we have a fully-fledged Commission. And that’s without thinking about whether Britain would need to have a Commissioner too.
The delay has meant that some EU careers are on hold, particularly as some roles in Berlaymont’s headquarters have yet to be filled in. More importantly, it means that the Commission can’t launch initiatives on important issues such as climate change.
Speaking of Britain, the EU now has to take into account the political situation going on within the UK parliament and is now in limbo waiting to see how matters continue to unfold.
Earlier this week, former Council President Donald Tusk announced that the EU has agreed for a three-month Brexit delay until January 31, 2020, in line with the UK’s request.
“I will keep my fingers crossed for you,” he added.
It seems that for now, most of those in the Brussels bubble are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping to get out of this deadlock.