There are two ways of looking at the imminent appointment of Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, as the next president of the European Parliament. The first way is to applaud Europe’s politicians for doing the right thing and giving one of the European Union’s top jobs to a man from one of the 10 former communist countries in central and eastern Europe that joined the EU in 2004-2007. This is the highest honour yet accorded to a public figure from one of the EU’s new member-states. Poles are justifiably proud.
The second way, however, is to be honest and recognise that the job of parliament president is about the lowest-ranking position someone could be given without its looking like an insult. Buzek, who belongs to the legislature’s main centre-right group, won’t even hold the job for the assembly’s full five-year term: under a deal with the socialists, he will step down after two and a half years and hand over the reins to a socialist. The fact is that, by giving this post to Buzek, older and bigger member-states in western Europe are making sure that they will get all the really big jobs when they come up for grabs later this year. Read more