A new book, to be published in Sweden today, paints a rather bleak picture of Margot Wallstrom's stint as EU Communications Commissioner. The book, written by Swedish journalist Emily von Sydow, blatantly labels Wallstrom's time in office a failure. The theme of the book reminded us of the Economist's description of Wallstrom a couple of weeks ago as "a Swede whose 'kum-bay-yah' approach grated with colleagues."
The book catalogues Wallstrom's failures, including:
One of her main responsibilities was to "sell" the EU Constitution. However, the Constitution was voted down in three seperate referendums - in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. (The scope of this failure - and Wallstrom's incapacity to respect the will of the Irish people - were conspicuously illustrated in an infamous interview with the Swede on Newsnight.)
Wallstrom was supposed to boost turn-out in the European elections. However, despite a flamboyant promotion campaign, costing taxpayers around €10 million, turnout dropped in 16 of 27 countries, as did the overall average - to an all-time low.
Her campaign to put more women in top jobs in the EU has not been "particularly succesful", according to the book.
Her proposal for more access to information and EU documents for citizens ended in failure (in fact, the proposal she came up with in the end was widely regarded as a step backwards, making it harder for citizens to access official EU documents).
Neither has Wallstrom's blog been the success story she likes to portray it as, bagging about 50,000-80,000 visitors a month, compared with the 140,000 visitors Swedish blogger HAX gets some months - blogging only in Swedish.
All in all the book goes pretty hard on Wallstrom, but also acknowledges that she hasn't had the easiest job in the world.
Still, at the end of the day Wallstrom has failed spectacuarly in her main duty: to bring the EU closer to its citizens. Altough her intentions have no doubt been good, she has ignored three referenda results and pushed through an agenda of more centralisation of powers at the EU level, against the will of most Europeans. On her watch, DG Communication has acted more and more like a political lobby group for more integration, than an objective provider of information about the EU, wading into national politcal debates and even seeking to control what is written in the media. And the fruits of her labour, the bitter taste they have left, speak for themselves.
Given that she will receive almost £1.8 million when she leaves the Commission this year, she cannot possibly be described as good value for money.
Let's hope that the next Communications Commissioner will be a lot more willing to actually listen to people. Or better still, maybe they will scrap the role altogether in the upcoming shakeup which is likely to see the more pointless posts like EU Commissioner for Multilingualism consigned to the history bin.