It is all about Ursula von der Leyen. Tomorrow the European Parliament will say yes or no to her as chairman of the committee. And the German still lacks votes. The manner in which she was nominated is met with much criticism. Back rooms! Undemocratic! Is that anger justified?

Of course there are back rooms in Brussels. In fact, there are back rooms in back rooms. Only last week, during the lengthy negotiations on the ‘top jobs’, European leaders were locked up in the huge glass cube of the Europe building for three days. Nobody was allowed out, nobody was allowed in. A very limited group was far away from the outside world about who would nominate it for the most important positions in the European Union.

The many hundreds of journalists were in the building next door. They couldn’t ask for anything, were told nothing, it was a mystery what happened and why it took so long. They could only wait until something became known. And to prevent leaks from the Europe building (something often comes out prematurely in Brussels), the leaders had to hand over their phones during the official gathering. “They don’t want them to suddenly read online what they’re talking about at the time,” said a source that is normally close to the negotiations, but not now. It was that secret and sensitive.

When nothing wanted to be announced, the chairman of the whole, Donald Tusk, decided to break up the company of the 28 European leaders and continue to meet in smaller groups. Behind closed doors. He spoke several times with all the leaders individually, so without the piercing glances or sensitive egos of the others, to find out what was and what was not possible. Suppose Germany now gets this and France that, what would you think about that? Or: many leaders are against Frans Timmermans as president of the European Commission, do you perhaps have an idea about someone else?

The story goes that the breakthrough came from two sheets of paper by French President Emmanuel Macron. He outlined one option with Frans Timmermans as chairman and what that meant for the rest of the positions. On the other with Ursula von der Leyen. The rest is history. That is, if the story is correct. It is about back rooms.

This whole process led to much criticism during and after the summit. For example, D66 MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld tweeted in the early morning of negotiation day two:’ Still no white smoke. No other major democracy anywhere in the world has such a bizarre and secret way to choose its political leaders. More than 200 million people voted, but 28 individuals withdraw behind closed doors for a chair dance. The EU needs democratic reforms! ”

In this and other newspapers, readers expressed anger about the ‘back room politics’ and ‘the lack of democracy’. Because it cannot be the case that Europeans can vote for Jan and everyone, but not for the person who will ultimately become the boss of Europe. ”

The tone in the European Parliament itself was also far from friendly. Here they were particularly angry about the fact that the government leaders had expertly turned their back on the Spitzen candidates. And those were just the people the citizen could vote for. Ursula von der Leyen was not on any ballot paper.

So what’s the matter now? Is democracy being violated here? Is sparkling, settled and fuzzy? It certainly doesn’t look good, certainly not for people who don’t like the high lords of the established order anyway. For those who want to criticize politics, the nominations of Von der Leyen, Josep Borrell (High Representative for Foreign Affairs) and Christine Lagarde (President of the European Central Bank) and the appointment of Charles Michel (President of the European Council) are cheering mill.

It starts with the structure of the European Union. To ensure that none of the three major institutions (council, committee, parliament) gets too much power, there is a system of guarantees. In this case: the council nominates the chairman of the committee, after which the parliament has the final say. The people you voted for, whether they be called Esther de Lange, Derk Jan Eppink or Sophie in ‘t Veld, ultimately determine who will be the boss of Europe.

That does not mean that everyone is happy with the role that has been assigned to him. The parliament wanted more power, or more simply: more democracy, and devised the experiment of the Spitzen candidates five years ago. It is no more, it is not a rule. For example, it does not have to wait for a candidate from the council, but instead nominates candidates for the most important position. Frans Timmermans was the Spitzen candidate for the Social Democrats, Manfred Weber for the Christian Democrats, Bas Eickhout for the Greens and so on. The winner of the elections would eventually also become the boss of Europe. Isn’t that super-democratic?

Well no. Frans Timmermans may have received many votes in the Netherlands, but he was not on the bill in all other EU countries. And with us, exactly zero people voted for Manfred Weber, while in this system he would have become the next chairman of the committee. That pinches. To overcome this, the ‘transnational lists’ have been devised. There must be one European list for the Socialists, one for the Liberals and so on, with a Spitzen candidate on whom everyone can vote. But yes, what do you as a Dutch voter with a suit grabbing an unknown Pole or Greek? Is that then democracy? Opinions are divided on this. Although this idea is getting more and more wind in the parliament.

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