Trial Balloons

In the post-EU-election hustle some member states are hitting the ground running. Some, however, are not. No points for guessing which category Muddy Hollows is in.

Marjan Šarec and his weird-ish relationship with the EU (source and source)

In fact, rather than defining strategic areas of interest early on and then finding one or more people potentially fitting the bill, the great Slovenian political minds of Dunning-Kruger fame started playing a game of elimination and floating trial balloons. Talk about bringing a knife to a gun fight.

In this setting, who gets the nod in the end is not nearly as important as who doesn’t. And since no-one is playing the game with final result in mind (not while the field is wide open, at least), this sort of ratfuckery
is having all sorts of unintended consequences across the board.

Specifically, the person who should be spearheading the drive to carve out the largest possible chunk of the post-election EU spoils is once again appearing suspiciously disinterested in the whole process.

Enter Bulc

But while letting various factions fight it out amongst themselves and then calling the final shot virtually unopposed might have worked after national election in June last year, Šarec is no position to either dictate
terms or wait for everyone else to sweat it out unless he wants his country to be left with scraps. Which, incidentally, is exactly what he accused the previous government of allowing to happen.

Therefore it is no wonder that Šarec almost immediately shot down the idea of Violeta Bulc repeating her five-year-stint as commissioner. Doing anything different would have meant he approves of the shambolic way Miro Cerar handled things back in 2014.

Enter Cerar

Speaking of Cerar, his name has been in the commissioner mix for quite a while. Weeks ago he announced that he will not be seeking re-election as SMC leader (after saying earlier that he will do precisely that), which many people took as a sign of an imminent commissioner run.

This triggered a whole lot of innuendo and speculation along the lines of Cerar striking a deal with Šarec to merge SMC with LMŠ and presumably co-opting Alenka Bratušek’s SAB as well. In return Cerar would land the Brussels gig.

This whole line of reasoning was problematic at best in terms of feasibility and patently idiotic in terms of political strategy.

Long story short, accusing Cerar of selling out for the commissioner post was a pretty ugly spin aimed at not only derailing his ambitions but also thwarting the liberal merger (or will that be a hostile takeover?) to which PM Šarec is apparently finally warming to, after flat-out rejecting a joint LMŠ-SAB-SMC ticket ahead of the EU vote.

The source of the spin were most likely none other than Social Democrats who are trying to keep the field open by shooting down Cerar’s presumed commission ambitions and throwing a spanner in the already delicate works of a possible (but by no means definite) unification of liberal parties.

The SD apparently still gets scared shitless at the tiniest of possibilities of an LDS 2.0. As a result, they will do anything to prevent returning to the political badlands they inhabited during the reign of the original Liberal Democrats led by Janez Drnovšek. Even though they should really be focusing on the challenges from the hard-left. Then there’s the fact that they have their own designs on the next EU commissioner from Slovenia.

Enter Fajon

Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D) was in the mix for the commissioner spot in 2014 as well. In fact, after Alenka Bratušek crashed and burned during her parliamentary hearing, then-PM Cerar had to clear up the clusterfuck he helped create and came up with a “solution” to present Commission chief Juncker with a list of three candidates: Bulc, Fajon and Karl Erjavec.

As an aside: that the trio is again among the contenders for the job tells you a lot about the capacity (rather, the lack thereof) of Slovenian political class to replenish the crop of top-tier candidates for senior positions.

Anyway, not missing a beat, Šarec immediately disparaged Fajon by pointing out that five years ago she said an MEP should be limited to serving two terms while she herself is now on her third. As if.

This, of course, is just another example of how ambition is frowned upon in Muddy Hollows and how qualified people who actually have a semblance of capacity to do good public service are shoot down and discouraged from seeking top-level positions.

Because the truth is that just as Bulc and Cerar, Fajon too is about as qualified for the commissioner post as you can get in Slovenia. But the trio (or, rather, the circles pushing them) are now locked in a sort of a Mexican standoff, each looking to eliminate the other two.

Which brings us to the rest of the would-be contenders: Karl Erjavec of DeSUS and Klemen Grošelj (LMŠ/ALDE), the newly minted MEP.

Enter Erjavec and Grošelj

Erjavec is once again showing his chutzpah by inserting himself in the mix without any real justification whatsoever.

Apparently, he thinks that Šarec somehow owes him a very big favour for joining his coalition. Which may be true, but by that standard, the PM owes the same favour to Alenka Bratušek for bringing her five MPs into the coalition fold and an even bigger favour to Cerar and Fajon as SMC and SD provide eleven and nine MPs respectively.

Thus, Erjavec barely has a leg to stand on in this particular piece de théâtre. But apparently he is betting that other people are even worse at basic math than he is. Say what you will, but the man has balls of brass.

As for Klemen Grošelj, whose name was circulated last Sunday as a sort of a compromise candidate, the proper response can only be: what the actual fuck?

Grošelj is a security specialist with decent mileage in high-level expert positions in the government. But nothing beyond that. His forays into politics began by advising then-defence minister Roman Jakič in 2013, when Alenka Bratušek took over the government. He was then surfing the airwaves, punditising on defence and national security issues until he landed the job of state secretary to defence minister Erjavec, basically serving as a LMŠ check on DeSUS leader’s shenanigans.

He was then again a number two, this time on the LMŠ ticket in the EU elections, again serving as a kind of a check (or rather a backup) to Spitzenkandidatin Irena Joveva, filling in for her when she hit a rough patch in the debates.

But to be frank, although he held his own neither of them excelled and their election to the European Parliament was purely a function of Šarec/LMŠ popularity at this point in time rather than a breakout moment for either Joveva or Grošelj. As such, the latter is, ironically, the weakest of the five people touted as possible commissioners.

Hopefully, both readers can now see the scope of the conundrum: Qualified candidates are mutually disqualifying one another while less qualified are hoping to catch a break but none is coming.

Unless someone (we’re looking at you, Marjan Šarec) comes up with a solution that goes beyond the obvious, this whole thing will escalate into a full-blown slug-fest where actual qualifications will matter very little and the person to eventually land the nomination will simply be the last (wo)man standing.

And by the time this comes to pass, the heads of EU member states will likely have come to an agreement on who gets to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president and this person will have their own ideas and constraints on who gets what.

Exit everyone (but one?)

As such, it is entirely possible that the future European Commission chief will upend the entire shit-show which in turn would cause a mad dash to find someone, anyone, who will fit the bill.

Even if it means nominating a person already thought eliminated.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.