The Brief, powered by the Martens Centre – A Commission Carol Part II

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Ursula von der Leyen is set to spend her days and nights in Commission HQ, in a specially converted flat high on the 13th floor. Here, we conclude a fictional telling of what might come to pass in those haunted hallways a few months from now…

(If you missed Part I, catch up here)

Far below, as she was being announced as new Commission president by Donald Tusk, Ursula saw confused journalists, a weeping Manfred Weber and thousands of regular people losing a little more faith in the EU.

“Look at what you have caused, Ursula. Voters began to trust us a bit more and then it was all brushed away in an instant,” Timmermans lamented, tears in his beard. Ursula vainly tried to explain it was Macron’s doing but the spook replied: “You still said yes.”

A chill swept through her, as did the memories: the phone call asking her to take the job, the away-day at Chateau du Lac, portfolios on top of portfolios, Poles after Poles; everything that had happened after that fateful July night.

“It must be undone,” Timmermans warned, in several languages. “What can I do, Spirit? The deed is done,” Ursula panicked.

The flying Dutchman dragged them through the night air to an apartment, a symphony by Dvořák and the waft of pancakes coming from the window. A black-haired woman sat at an office desk, pouring over documents: Věra Jourová was burning the midnight oil.

“Why are we here?” Ursula asked, though she already knew the answer. “She is the key, make Věra work on the transnational lists, bring Spitzenkandidat back, that is how you can save yourself,” Timmermans explained.

As they hurtled back towards the Commission, she remembered including the lists in her mission letter to Jourová. But what seemed like a flippant olive branch to MEPs at the time now took on new importance.

The ghostly howl of “Spitzenkandidaten” echoed along Rue de la Loi as Timmermans took his leave. Ursula slept poorly that night.

***

The next evening, the president stayed up again, impatiently awaiting the other ghost Selmayr had promised, when the cold and windy 13th floor suddenly became chillier still.

A black-hooded figure strode through her office-bedroom door, shrouded in a fog of gloom.

Fear gripped Ursula as the silent phantom grabbed her wrist and dragged her along the hallway. Darkness enveloped them both but an instant later, she was stood in the European Parliament. A wall-clock said the date was March 1999.

“Ghost, why are we here?” Ursula dared to ask but the spirit remained silent.

A man addressed the Parliament, insisting that the Santer Commission must resign, that there had been wrongdoing and that Commissioners must take more responsibility for their actions.

The hooded figure sighed and trembled when the infamous Luxemburger’s name was called…

Before Ursula could ask more questions, darkness enveloped them once again. She opened her eyes to see a large building in front of her. The shiny letters above the revolving doors read ‘Goldman Sachs’. A slick-haired, smiling man walked through them.

The phantom shook its head and pointed at other buildings, the names of UBS, Gazprom, Mossack Fonseca and more stretched away into the dark. Ursula began to realise the ghost’s point but was quickly whisked away to another scene: the Parliament again.

This time it was October 2019, and very familiar faces sat in front of committee hearings, answering questions on everything and anything, from think-tank payments and the CAP to migration and job titles.

Tabloid newspaper headlines raced in front of her eyes, an unlikely list of Brit Commissioners plastered on the front pages. It was all that was needed to crank Ursula’s fears up to breaking point.

The phantom sensed her terror and croaked in her ear: “Be careful who you trust, Ursula. I wasn’t” and then vanished. She suddenly awoke in her own bed, drenched in sweat, the midday sun hurting her eyes.

The lessons of the night before firmly in her mind, Ursula ran through the hallways of the Berlaymont, past the portraits of her predecessors, to the press room.

Rushing past a startled Maroš Šefčovič, she instructed him to go buy the biggest turkey he could find, then burst onto the press room stage, shoved the spokesperson away from the podium and addressed a gaggle of awaiting journalists: “I have some things to tell you…”

~ THE END ~


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Look out for…

Confirmation from MEPs on the candidacies of Vestager and Timmermans.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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