Recently Burson-Marsteller and EurActiv conducted an interesting survey: ‘The 2010-2014 European Commission Mid-Term Review’. More than half of the respondents rated the performance of the commission ‘bad’ to ‘very bad’. Also looking at specific policy areas, the Commission does not score higher than a four (from ten).
However Karel Lanoo, chief executive of the Centre for European Policy Studies, stated that public opinion has been too critical – the economic and financial crisis has stabilized for the moment and the markets are calmer now, but public opinion has yet to catch up.
Looking at commissioners individually, Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) received the best grade: 6/10. The worst marks are for President José Manuel Barroso (2/10), and Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (2.5/10). But are the commissioners really to blame for these perceptions? Karel Lanoo states for example that Baroness Ashton can only be blamed partially; the biggest problem is that the Member States do not want it.
Added to that, Ashton faces ‘internal’ struggles as well. As I wrote earlier, with the Treaty of Lisbon, whether we like it or not, we already have four visible leaders of the EU: the President of the EU (Council), the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament, and the leader of the country currently in charge via the six months rotating presidency. To push a fifth person, like Catherine Aston to an external visible position – to have another leader – is difficult.
Look at Hilary Clinton – in charge of the “foreign ministry of the US”. As Secretary of State, she is a well-known face across the globe. We just cannot compare her with Baroness Ashton, who is not as well-known as Europe's 'high representative', although she does great work behind the scenes.
Dan LUCA / Brussels