"They have educated me Jesuits and Franciscans, both of them, and probably for that reason today I am a socialist", he commented on some occasion Frans Timmermans, a Dutchman who was born 58 years ago in Heerlen, city of 80,000 inhabitants close to Maastricht. Perhaps it was precisely his Jesuit and Franciscan heritage that led him to refer to the salvation of souls when the Socialists elected him as the candidate to preside over the European Comission at its congress in Lisbon in December: "These are not ordinary elections. These elections will decide the soul of Europe… we need to sign a new social contract with the citizens of Europe. "
It has become a hammer of heretics for Poland, Hungary and the Catalan separatists
In a way, his appointment as a socialist champion allows Timmermans to resurface at a time when it seemed that his star, resplendent when he landed in Brussels in 2014, had lost its shine. Jean-Claude Juncker named him first vice president and gave him all kinds of compliments. He seemed destined to become the right hand of a president who was going to restrict his activity to the essential issues. Some even talked about "Timmermania". However, at the moment of truth, its prominence was less than expected, its influence surpassed by that of others, "more than the right hand was the left finger" comment European sources; and instead, he had to deal with the thorniest issues.
Despite his reputation for political courage, he maintained absolute silence when, by surprise and with extreme speed, Juncker named his man of confidence, the German Martin Selmayr, as the new secretary general of the European Commission, the post from which he it controls its internal functioning. The procedure followed led to the condemnation of the European Parliament, but all the commissioners were silent, also the first vice-president, Timmermans.
The difficult issues have accumulated in your portfolio. It was he who negotiated the agreement with Turkey in 2016 to stop the arrival of emigrants to Brussels, a pact criticized by humanitarian organizations but that Timmermans has always defended. And above all, he has been in charge of ensuring respect for the rule of law, which has led him to clashes with some countries. And in this area, he has not been pusillanimous. "He has been a brave man, confronting when powerful states were needed, while some governments were too silent. Defend values, has shown courage, "said Dutch Socialist MEP, Kati Piri, to La Vanguardia.
The truth is that Timmermans has become a hammer of heretics for the governments of Poland, Hungary, Romania, and also for the Catalan separatists. It is he who drives the open files against Warsaw and Budapest and the one that increases the pressure on Bucharest. On the other hand, with regard to Catalonia, every time it has been asked, it has defended its defense of the Spanish government's actions. He did it on October 4, 2017 in the plenary of the European Parliament, stating that it is "the duty of every government to maintain the Rule of Law and that sometimes requires the proportionate use of force", and insisted on Monday when, asked about the situation of Oriol Junqueras, said that "you can not break the Constitution, you can not violate the Constitution in a country based on the rule of law. And if you do that in a state of law, it has consequences. "
Timmerans is a Dutch traveler, not a wanderer, who has traveled half of Europe, with studies in Rome and France, an extraordinary polyglot who masters six languages and who uses them with an exquisite oratory. We said not wandering, because it has well determined the port you want to disembark, get the presidency of the European Commission, which has 3 consecutive mandates in the hands of the popular
He likes to tell how his grandfather, a coal miner, took him on a bicycle to soccer. After his father entered the diplomatic service and he went on his way, to finish directing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before jumping to Brussels. Now he shows himself as an avowed fan of Pedro Sánchez, and knows that he can count on his party in the Netherlands, which has lost a lot of weight and is no longer part of the government coalition of Mark Rutte.
In his 5 years of commissioner, he has earned the respect of many of his subordinates, but also some criticisms. "He is very intelligent, very political, courageous, but also very arrogant," says people who have worked with him. They also comment that their landing was agitated, being one of the levers with which Juncker drastically centralized decision-making.
Now, during the election campaign, Timmermans sees less of his 4 children and the two dogs, which he frequently shoots on Instagram, but he's sure to continue listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen, his favorite singer.