As you may have heard once or twice, Britain is leaving the EU but it’s not leaving Europe.
And what better way to celebrate the surprise news that the U.K. is not physically moving to another part of the planet than by spreading a great British tradition across the European continent — the New Year’s honors list?
Under this fiercely egalitarian system, the queen hands out gongs to politicians, celebrities and sports stars who are already hugely successful to reward them yet further for “services” to various causes — often themselves and their bank balances.
The New Year’s honors are, however, above all a service to news editors who are desperate for material to fill space over the holiday period.
Very much in this spirit, POLITICO has compiled a New Year’s honors list that recognizes the great and the good of European politics on both sides of the Channel in 2019 for their services to …
Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki were so busy shooting down nominees for the EU’s top jobs that they failed to line up anyone from their own region for the posts.
Political steadfastness: The European Parliament fearlessly declared it was “ready” to reject any would-be European Commission president who hadn’t run as a Spitzenkandidat in May’s European Parliament election. It’s hardly the Parliament’s fault if people weren’t sophisticated enough to understand that it really meant “ready to roll over and wave through whoever EU leaders tell us to vote for.”
(The Parliament fought off stiff competition for this honor — from Boris “do or die” Johnson for bravely sticking to his promise to leave the EU on October 31, and from the EU itself for standing by its pledge not to re-open the Withdrawal Agreement.)
Transatlantic unity: Emmanuel Macron brought America and Europe together in beautiful harmony — to denounce him for saying NATO was suffering “brain death” and calling into question collective defense.”Very, very nasty,” intoned Donald Trump, transformed into NATO’s arch-protector thanks to Macron’s intervention.
Western Europe: Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki were so busy shooting down nominees for the EU’s top jobs that they failed to line up anyone from their own region for the posts. All four big gigs went to Western Europeans. And the top two went to a German Christian Democrat who took a refugee into her home and a Belgian liberal who loves the U.N. migration pact. Result!
The legal profession: Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, succeeded in making a name for himself in politics. And will keep lots of lawyers busy for a very long time. Just peachy!
Ghostbusters!: Nathalie Loiseau brought the word “ectoplasm” into the political lexicon.
Brussels barbers: Manfred Weber joined the ranks of the bearded after failing to become Commission president. To be fair, even by the standards of this list, this is not much of an achievement. But at least it means Weber ends the year with something.
The creative industries: Ursula von der Leyen got into hot water for using management consultants in her last job so it’s no surprise that the gurus of business babble were suspected of being behind the titles of some her portfolios. But the Commission says they were all home (or should that be half?) baked. Good thing there’s now a vice president for foresight who will make sure comedy titles aren’t a problem in the future.
Magic: Britain’s Liberal Democrats made impressive poll numbers disappear in an election campaign — even when they supposedly reflected the views of 48 percent of the population. Such was their mastery of disappearing acts that they even made their leader vanish.
Political transparency: Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov gave citizens a rare insight into the art of the backroom chat when he live-streamed a late-night meeting with Frans Timmermans, then a candidate for the presidency of the European Commission, on his Facebook page. “I’m not sure we should be recording all of this,” declared Timmermans, then guardian of the EU’s core values, just before the screen went black.
Austria (I): Heinz-Christian Strache loves his country so much he declared a willingness to sell off public contracts to a Russian of dubious wealth in return for support for his party.
Austria (II): Former Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr is seen by admirers as a great servant of the EU and its institutions. When it became clear he wouldn’t keep his job under von der Leyen, however, suddenly he couldn’t even stick around to the end of the Juncker Commission — so desperate was he to take up the vital post of Commission representative in Vienna.
B-list European politicians: Are you an EU politician with little say in key decisions? Do you speak English? Perfect! The BBC will get you on its flagship news shows to tell Brits what Europe really thinks.
The dark arts of politics: Matteo Salvini started the year riding high. He ended it having failed to achieve his target in the European Parliament election, out of government and with people giving him the finger on an airplane and on Twitter. It’s so Machiavellian that the rest of us just can’t understand how clever it all was.
Giving back: Former MEP Elmar Brok declared himself exonerated after auditors said his office had paid back money from constituents’ visits to the European Parliament. But was that before or after POLITICO revealed the surpluses? Brok’s office wouldn’t say. One local party association said the money came only after the story was published. Others wouldn’t give dates. POLITICO wishes any local associations that received an unexpected windfall — and all politicians with a sense of humor — a very happy new year.
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