Why we should stop sending politicians to Brussels

Takeover by politicians in recent decades has weakened European Commission

The Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission, in Brussels. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

The Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission, in Brussels. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

The “faceless bureaucrat” slur so beloved of the Brexiteer ultras who have just taken over the British government has always struggled to survive contact with two well-aired facts: of three key European Union institutions, two – the parliament and the council – are filled with elected politicians. That leaves the commission, the EU’s policy engine-room, as the supposed bastion of anonymous technocrats intent on malign subversion of Britain’s sovereign prerogative to, say, pollute its rivers or eat chlorinated chicken.

It’s true that the commission is the least democratic of the Brussels power centres. Its 28 members are not elected; they are nominated by national governments. The same goes for its president; Ursula von der Leyen may have required the approval of the parliament (and just about received it) but EU leaders settled on her name only after a three-day row that consisted of winnowing the field until they landed on the individual who least offended the largest number of governments.

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