"If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants"
David Ogilvy – Founder of Ogilvy & Mather
One of the most inspirational books that I read in my life, was the autobiography of David Ogilvy: the founder of the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency.
This book, called “Ogilvy on Advertising”, was like “The secret of my success” for intellectuals: streetsmart, thorough, thought-provoking, witty and with loads of good examples of concepts, campaigns and (personal) behaviour that did AND did not work.
One of the most inspirational quotes in this book was the aforementioned quote about the company of giants... Inspirational, because it demands a lot of guts to contract someone, who could theoretically be your own worst enemy: someone who is better and / or more talented than you.
This is exactly the reason that only the best and gutsiest leaders dare to do this: the true leaders. They are not afraid to be overpowered by new people that they contracted, because they are indeed true leaders.
This Ogilvy quote is unfortunately a quote that comes to mind, when we think about the new candidates for the European Parliament and the European Commission.
On May 25th, the elections for the European Parliament will be held in most countries (May 22nd in The Netherlands). A few days later the European Council will decide upon the new European Commission and its chairman, who will succeed José Manuel Barroso.
Of course, there are countries in Europe, who think that their candidates for the European Parliament (and the European Commission) should be the best of the best. However, The Netherlands is certainly not one of them and I presume that many other countries think likewise, unfortunately.
From the Dutch members in European Parliament, only Sophie in ’t Veld of (liberal-democrat) D66 is really an outstanding politician, with a good and distinctive "voice" and good ideas. D66 is almost the only party in The Netherlands, which takes Europe very seriously; their main candidate shows this.
Bas Eickhout of GroenLinks (environmental party) does not do so bad either, as at least he is visible (a.o. at Twitter) and he seems to have an opinion that you can (dis)agree with.
However, the leading MEP’s, of the traditionally most influential parties in The Netherlands, seem to be a bunch of political nitwits, “stickers” and good-for-nothings.
Wim van de Camp (CDA; christian-democrat) and Thijs Berman (PvdA; labour), as well as their henchmen, have been nearly invisible during the last four years.
Hans van Baalen (VVD; liberal-conservative), on the other hand, was very visible in a negative way, as he has been identified as the MEP, who performed the least ballots in the European Parliament, due to being absent all the time.
These three people and their fraction members had opinions that were exchangeable, unimportant and never out of the ordinary. And I’m afraid that this is also true for many other European representatives, representing other countries.
Is it any wonder that an eloquent, intelligent and mean political streetfighter, like UKIP’s Nigel Farage, could sink one MEP after another with his infamous verbal barrages in the European Parliament?! Farage has been too often Lemuel Gulliver in the Land of Lilliput. I don’t like the way in which Farage operates and I reject most of his opinions, but boy…, did he give the other MEP’s a good spanking sometimes.
In The Netherlands, the European elections will attract close-to-nought attention, because we almost NEVER hear something from and about the European parliament and from the people, who represent us there. I wonder if that is different in the other European countries and I bet that a substantial number of Europeans knows more representatives in the American Congress by name than in their own European Parliament.
Nowadays, it is ‘en vogue’ to repudiate Europe, as the institute that brought peace, stability and prosperity to shell-shocked, post-war Europe. The European Parliament is the ‘required element’ of Dutch and (perhaps) pan-European politics and nobody sees it anymore as the indispensable institute that it should be for years and years ahead. That is very undeserved and unwise.
And then we come to another objectionable topic: the members and Chairman of the European Commission. The members of the European Commission are nominated by their countries and every country in the European Union may appoint one.
The result is that there are about six to eight significant commissioner’s positions and the rest (20) is mostly futile. Of course, this leads to much “wheeling and dealing” between the government leaders, about which commissioner is getting which position.
Countries, who settle for a less important position within the European Commission, can have a lot of pork in exchange in the process. Nevertheless, in the end it are France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, who deal the cards and the rest must follow their lead.
Unfortunately, many European countries are putting more energy in getting an important Commissioner’s position than in getting the best, most talented and charismatic candidate for this position.
Too often, being appointed as commissioner is either a token of gratitude towards an influential political dinosaur or a means to get ‘the competition out of the way’ for political "leaders". This is the reason that many European Commissioners seem just as insignificant and exchangeable as the members of the European Parliament.
Alas, this is also true for the next Chairman of the European Commission. The end result of the European Parliamentary elections must be officially weighed in, during the selection procedure for the chairman of the European Commission, when it comes to his political colours. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the selection of the EC chairman will again be a matter of “wheeling and dealing” between the government leaders, with the final, decisive votes for France and Germany.
And unfortunately, there is also little doubt that the candidate for the position will indeed be cooperative and intelligent, but also weak and uninspiring and laden with the charisma of a doormat.
A political nobody as the chief of a whole bunch of political nobodies...
The new “chief commissioner” will be a political apparatchik, who won’t attract too much attention, away from the national leaders. These can keep on celebrating “their” European achievements as national victories, while blaming the chief commissioner for everything that goes wrong within Europe.
To prove my case, I will mention the people who are in the lead for being appointed as chief commissioner:
- Jean-Claude Juncker – Former Prime Minister of Luxemburg and former chairman of the Euro-group is the leading Christian-Democrat candidate and German chancellor Angela Merkel’s favorite;
- Juncker has been more or less identified as a ‘boozer’ by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, his successor as chairman of the Euro-Group. The fact that Dijsselbloem dared to do so, proves Juncker's insignificance;
- Martin Schulz – The chairman of the European Parliament is the candidate for the Social-Democrat party within Europe;
- Martin Schulz: what can we say more about him than that he gives some people “the willies” with his speeches;
- Guy Verhofstadt – The former Belgian Prime Minister and a strongly pro-Europe liberal-conservative is
the liberal candidate;
- Guy Verhofstadt is chosen by a.o. Dutch PM Mark Rutte, in spite of the fact that Rutte totally disagrees with Verhofstadts 'Grand Visions' on the Federal Europe of the future. How is that for being taken seriously?!
As long as ‘Europe’ chooses lightweights like these people as their official leaders, nothing will really change with respect to the appreciation for the European Union in the European countries and abroad.
David Ogilvy would be ashamed of this, but hey… he passed away in 1999 and this is how we do it in Europe after all...