Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 08:57:03 AM EST
I am writing this off-the-cuff so the timelines and legal details may not be totally accurate, but I will correct any mistakes in subsequent updates.
In this diary I present an idea I originally had around the time of the demise of the Santer commission (in 1999 one year ahead of term). It tries to address three related issues:
- the democratic deficit of the EU institutions
- the gridlock in EU decision-making
- the lack of an EU-wide public opinion
In a nutshell:
- The national parties making up at least one Pan-European political party organize their national EP electoral campaigns as part of a coordinated Europe-wide effort to have a certain person be appointed President of the Commission.
- The new European Parliament convenes around June 2009. Among its first resolutions is a vote endorsing a candidate for Commission President
- The Council of Ministers can, at its own risk, propose a different President-designate from the Parliament's stated preference.
- October 31/November 1, 2009: the Barroso Commission finishes its term and the new Commission takes office under the Parliament's chosen President.
Brief discussion below the fold.
Are pan-european political campaigns viable?
Insofar as there is a European public opinion, they will be. The question then is whether or not there is a European public opinion, and the whole point of the European Parliament is to foster its emergence. I argue that at one point or another some political party will have to test the waters at the risk of badly losing an EP election. The prize might be a landslide victory if the European Public can be energized by the prospect of "real democracy in Europe".
Can a trans-national candidate mobilize national voters?
It would be necessary to select a person with sufficiently wide name recognition and high popularity across Europe. Given that smaller member states have proportionally more seats in the EP, it would be helpful to select someone who is well-known and respected in as many small states as possible.
Making the EP elections a popular referendum on the President of the Commission would only be part of a wider program of European policies to be pursued from the EP. The program would have to be explained to the national electorates, and it would help move EP campaigns away from domestic issues and into European issues.
There is, again, the risk of the national parties losing voters by focusing on European rather than domestic issues, but the argument could be made that national issues need to be brought up in the context of policy proposals for the whole of Europe, and that the other parties are preventing the public from influencing European policies by their nationalistic focus.
What party would be willing to take such risk?
There is only one party with the required size and commitment to European Construction, and that is the European Socialists. Just the threat of such a campaign by the PES might encourage most of the other EP parties to carry out similar campaigns, to the benefit of the European political discourse.
Update [2005-10-23 14:19:18 by Migeru]:
Is this legal?
The way I see it, it violates the spirit, but not the letter, of the current EU regulations. That's why I call this a democratic revolution. In the worst case, the Council would refuse to nominate the Parliament's endorsed candidate, and a nomination battle might ensue, with the Parliament voting down all Commission President designates. Now, if the EP's move is backed by a majority of MEPs elected within the last 6 months after an explicit campaign, they can claim they have the backing of the European people against the Council.
This would break the system, but the system is already widely recognized as disfunctional and needs reform. The Council (in Nice 2002) and the Commission (with the failed Constitution) have shown themselves unable to propose a reform that will engage the people of Europe. So it is time for the only directly elected institution in EU governance to force the system, to the breaking point if necessary, in order to effect change in the right direction.