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The bigger picture

by Migeru Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:59:42 AM EST

The attention being paid to whether or not Blair wants or will be given the job of President of the European Council created by the Treaty of Lisbon provides me with a good excuse to take a look at the bigger institutional picture and how the appointment or not of Tony Blair fits with the direction that EU reform is taking.

One of the problems with the European Council is that it represents the political class only. This explains partly why the Council is the least trusted European Institution (source: Eurobarometer). The situation is so bad that Commissioner Wallström even accused this political elite of being a male chauvinist clique.

EUobserver.com: Margot Wallström fed up with EU 'reign of old men' (08.02.2008)

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom has said she is fed up with the "reign of old men" in Brussels corridors, saying public opinion in Europe will not take lightly to the backroom scheming between EU hot-shots.

Promoted by DoDo


If one looks at the conditions for EU treaty reform, the EU remains an intergovernmental organization, that is, constitutionally it's not even a confederacy. In order to change that one would have to shift the power to reform the treaties from the Member States to the European Parliament, and that is not likely to happen.

The Council has, in fact, made a great big mess of the Treaties (and the Eastward expansion) since the ill-fated Nice summit at the end or the previous French Presidency in 2000. It's, in a way, their mess; it's taken them all this time to fix it and it's not clear that they have succeeded.

To make a long story short, the EU is basically going in the direction of giving more powers to the Council, which I reiterate is the least trusted European Union institution consistently Eurobarometer after Eurobarometer.

But turkeys don't vote for Christmas, and given who negotiates the treaties, this state of affairs is not likely to change.

We're finally getting the concession that the deliberations and votes in the Council will be made public, which will prevent ministers from voting at the Council to approve a policy that is unpopular at home, and then blaming the European Commission ("Brussels") for it. Some transparency in the work of the Council was needed, and it will be had.

The full name of the European Commission is the Commission of the European Communities. Note the plural! This refers to the European Coal and Steel Community (1952-2002), the Euratom, and the European Economic Community, which was all there was before the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. It was, for instance, the EEC that Spain and Portugal joined in 1986.

The Commission is therefore in charge of the Single Market (the soon-to-be-former "First Pillar") and is also the "Guardian of the Treaties". I say "soon to be former" because the Three-Pillar structure established by the Maastricht Treaty is going to be dissolved into just one European Union with separate legal personality by the new Treaty. However, when thinking about the division of powers within the EU it still helps to keep the three pillars in mind.

The other two pillars are the Common Foreign and Security Policy (yes, we have had one since Maastricht, believe it or not) and Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters.

So, the EU has had a placeholder for a common foreign policy for aboout 15 years now, but the Council can't stop bickering and, since unanimous agreement is required, no actual Common Policy exists to speak of. The CFSP is, then, a confederate foreign policy - foreign policy remains with the Member States and any common policy would be agreed collegiately.

The Second Pillar is, therefore, a Council competence. However, the Commission has long had a (technocratic) Directorate General for external relations. The (political) position of Commisioner for External Relations will be merged with the High Representative for the CFSP and become one of the four top jobs in the European Union. This, IMHO, weakens the Commission by explicitly reducing its foreign relations to Trade relations and taking political issues closer to the council.

Now, Blair as president of the Council would want to usurp these attributions of the HRCFSP. That is what the whole Blair row is all about. A move of foreign relations from the Commission towards the Council, to a position somewhat in the middle of the two. But Blair has hinted that he only wants the job of Council President if he can also take over some of the attributions of the HRCFSP, as well as those of the Commissioner for Trade.

Guardian Unlimited Politics: I'll be president of Europe if you give me the power - Blair (February 2, 2008)

Tony Blair has been holding discussions with some of his oldest allies on how he could mount a campaign later this year to become full-time president of the EU council, the prestigious new job characterised as "president of Europe". Blair, currently the Middle East envoy for the US, Russia, EU and the UN, has told friends he has made no final decision, but is increasingly willing to put himself forward for the job if it comes with real powers to intervene in defence and trade affairs.
(my emphasis) Compare this with the description of the Council President in the Lisbon Treaty Article 1.16) [PDF]
6. The President of the European Council:
(a) shall chair it and drive forward its work;
(b) shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;
(c) shall endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;
(d) shall present a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings  of the European Council.
The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The President of the European Council shall not hold a national office.'.
(my emphasis)

In connection with this, it may have escaped notice that there is already a person doing the job that the Treaty of Lisbon spells out for the President of the Council. This is not the HRCFSP. The job title is Secretary General of the Council and the holder of the job is the same Javier Solana that is currently HRCFSP.

The role of the General Secretariat of the Council is to provide the intellectual and practical infrastructure for the Council at four levels: working party, Permanent Representatives Committee, Council of Ministers and European Council. It carries out the practical preparation for meetings and drafts reports, notes, minutes and records and prepares draft agendas. It is more particularly at the disposal of the Presidency to assist in its tasks of finding compromise solutions, coordinating work and summing up situations. It provides the continuity in Council proceedings and has custody of Council archives and acts. Its Legal Service is available to give opinions to the Council and its committees. A large number of officials work at translation, typing, reproduction, circulation and handling of documents.
In other words, Blair actually wants to take over both of Javier Solana's current jobs, even though the Treaty of Lisbon explicitly makes them quite distinct.

So, in my mind it is essential that the President of the Council be an unassuming personality, not chosen for their great oratory, media savvy and their ability and willingness to strut the globe representing the EU. That's what the HRCFSP is about, and that will be a separate job. The Council President has to be someone who has the ability to facilitate coalition building within the council and broker agreements. Blair is not the person for this, he has shown that in spades through ten years of experience on the Council as PM, and for six months while he held the rotating presidency. Taking a cue from redstar's latest diary, I'd say that the Council President should be a former Foreign Minister of a mid-sized country. Also note that the Council will be writing the job description this year, before filling the position, and that the Devil is in the details of how the council will define the job of its President.

Finally, the third pillar: police and judicial cooperation. It is very necessary but it will of necessity be done under the council. It's not the Commission's job (single market) to set up (say) a "federal police force" for the EU. On this I will just say that I heard a very convincing presentation [PDF: see section 8.6] by Bill Newton-Dunn MEP on the need for a federal police force. But that can only be done by the Council under the Third Pillar. Remember again that the European Parliament is legislative, not executive, and that the executive competence over the third pillar lies with the council and not with the commission. Note also that the Parliament doesn't have legislative initiative (the commission does, currently), but only the right to vote on proposed legislation within the codecision procedure.

This brings me to an interesting example of application of the Third Pillar: the airline passenger data controversy.

Under threat to commercial airlines by the US government, the European Commission drafted a directive or regulation allowing the data transfers that the US demanded. This was challenged before the European Court of Justice, who struck it down. But the reason that the regulation was struck down was not that it violated data protection: it was that it fell under the Third Pillar and so the Commission had overstepped its boundaries. Therefore, the Council got to draft its own regulation behind closed doors, and we ended up with a much worse passenger data regulation than the one we started with. This, by the way, was essentially the way the story was told to us by a guy from the Commission's US desk during a group visit to the Commission last Autumn.

Why can't we just remove the Council and make the Commission answer to the parliament's legislative initiative? Well, for two reasons. First "we" the people of Europe are represented democratically by our national governments. They compose the Council which is very analogous to a Senate (think: German Bundesrat). But as far as the structures of the EU are concerned the people are not directly sovereign. Sovereignty is delegated in the National Governments. EU treaties are entered into, in our name, by Plenipotentiaries of the member states. So, unless and until European policy at the Council becomes the number one political issue in a national election campaign, there will be no real chance of reform. Things might be different if the EU were able to raise its own taxes, but this is one thing that would be opposed more strongly by the member states than by the people of Europe, I believe.

Consider, for instance, that VAT is about 1/7 of GDP, and it is collected by the member states, while the EU budget is about 1% of GDP and it is paid by the member states from their tax revenues, rather than collected directly by the EU. This arrangement explains partly what the budget row was all about in 2006. The Commission came up with a 7-year budget framework for 2007-13, but then the Council reduced it by a lot, with the European Parliament trying to increase it. The Council also was late reaching its own common position on the budget framework. Then, once the 7-year budget famework is decided, the European Parliament actually holds the purse and decides the annual budgets.

Display:
With a hat tip for JakeS for lending me his ear over gtalk.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 06:14:40 PM EST
Excellent "disection" of the EU.

This paper deserves to be a permanent Eurotrib reference on its own.

Meanwhile, heard a bit of Sarozy's speech on the French ratification of the Lisbon treaty from which I gathered the 3 cornerstones of his support: a) comprehensive immigration policy, b) unified defence and 3) overhauling of the agricultural policy (was busy fixing things for baby boy's skiing trip couldn't pay attention to Televised speech.)

by The3rdColumn on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 06:42:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for going into these arcane details for us. The devil is in these, as suual...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 06:35:22 PM EST
A vague similarity with the way the French "Communautés de Communes" are being built up is the reliance on indirect democracy.

With the population boom of the 20th century, and the very small nature of the French municipalities, the larger agglomerations now contain many commune - maybe 500 for the Paris area, and dozens for the larger provincial towns. Many public service, that'd make no sense to operate at the municipality level in those agglomeration - water, garbage disposal, public transportation, stadium building, etc... - are operated at the communauté de commune level, in an institution that shares the tax base of the individual municipalities.

It's the mayors that rule those institutions ; but as citizens, when electing mayors, don't necessarily take into account the projects of the communauté. And are surprised when their municipality gets chosen to build the local garbage dump.

The problem is, again, the indirect democracy that is also found at the European level. How many voters take into account what the candidates will do in secondary functions, such as what the president will do as the European senator ? There can be many much more pressing issues to determine oneself on.

Hey, how may people actually even know of the Council of the EU ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 07:06:20 PM EST
how may people actually even know of the Council of the EU ?

Talking to people about the Blair petition, I realize that very few know. And explaining it is not easy.

It also tends to get confused with the Council of Europe.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indirect democracy means that people don't even try to understand what they don't have a voice in : it becomes part of them.

The EU won't gain much legitimation as long as it remains an unelected, unknown them. And legitimation ultimately has to come from the people voting...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:26:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What you say suggests that communes need to be eliminated, as they are no longer the relevant administrative unit.

Which is of course impossible as long as politicians have jobs anc prestige that they want to keep. Thus the indiract way around this, by creating new roles that slowly take over roles.

In the case of _communautés urbaines8 I think that people understand reasonably well how they work, and there is a balance in that typically the main city will represent about 50% of the overall population and thus there is a natural balance between the core and the suburbs.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:44:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this suggests that some functions should be transferred at the European level, with the attendant political responsibility and accountability, ie elections. But we face the same problem that national politicians do not want to relinquish any of their powers.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:59:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree with you. That's the reason why Attali's proposal to get rid of the départements was doomed to fail: to many politicians are opposed to this reform.

The only way to achieve such a reform is to empower the regions and the communities of municipalities (like urban communities or "pays"). One way to do so would be to elect the executive bodies of these communities through universal suffrage. Taken in a "pincer" between two local authorities with a greater democratic legitimacy, the département would slowly fade away.

This reform was proposed in the first draft of the "Chevènement law", but it was dropped due to an intense lobbying of the conseillers généraux (elected representatives of the départements). The Socialist Party didn't have the political guts to maintain it.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:44:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not that sure people understand how communautés de communes work all that well. And particularly, that during the campaign, the programs really point out what will happen among the communauté half as much as what will happen within the commune.

The small commune as a social relationship utility ; the scale of a few hundred to a few thousand people gives rise to a useful political entity, which should see its role in very local matters clearly delineated with those of the communauté. For example, this a proper scale at which to introduce direct and/or participative democracy. Quartier administration in larger Municipalities could have that role.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 09:17:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't see why each communaute de communes could not have a popularly-elected assembly.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 09:44:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean, apart from the politicians liking the whole "indirect democracy" thing that gives them more power, more important positions to share, more indemnities ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:16:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's one of the reasons why I support the Lisbon treaty: it ends the pillar structure, gives the Commission the role of main executive power in all areas and expands the codecision procedure on important issues.

Also, a president of the Council doesn't have to be a bad thing, but a lot depends on who is playing this role how and who's gonna be foreign minister (of Commission AND Council, potentially a more powerful job).

All the more reasons to stop Blair.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 07:25:52 PM EST
The pillar structure will end, but what used to be the second pillar will still be Council competences. It's just that after 2014 the HRCFSP will be a member of the Commission.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:03:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think we know who we have to blame for the compromises. It's still the right direction.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 02:10:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Migeru.  Really clear and informative, thanks.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 02:34:32 AM EST
I wasn't so sure, maybe it's because of the conversational tone.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 10:28:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has highlighted a number of things that I hadn't come across or given thought to before, and I feel as though I understand the issues you are putting forward.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 11:12:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a good summary of what is going on. Sometimes it's good to summarise the background and developments you're already largely familiar with, to inform a broader audience.

So you are now officially a good populariser.

The ending could still be improved. You talk about two things but then you don't mention the second explicitly, and you don't fit the taxes issue into the narrative as tightly as would be possible. So the end still feels a bit like an aside.

Overall I think the piece is excellent, though. It's a solid backgrounder that doesn't stray into elitist briefing insiderisms.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 11:29:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the last two paragraphs seem largely disconnected from the rest.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 11:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do think there's a point to the penultimate paragraph and generally to closing the piece by talking about why it is difficult to make the institutional changes necessary to make the EU more supranational and democratic -- in a bit more elaborate way than 'turkeys don't vote for christmas'.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 11:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, in my mind it is essential that the President of the Council be an unassuming personality, not chosen for their great oratory, media savvy and their ability and willingness to strut the globe representing the EU. That's what the HRCFSP is about, and that will be a separate job. The Council President has to be someone who has the ability to facilitate coalition building within the council and broker agreements. Blair is not the person for this

Let's hope Blair and Mandelson don't see a crack to slip through here: make some non-entity president and get Blair the HRCFSP job.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:01:28 AM EST
Would Blair want a job with no president in the title ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:05:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some less bigger pictures also relevant to the Bliar question:

  • Who will be the next Commission President? Barroso's (first?) term runs out in 2009, too. Government changes and the next EP vote might greatly influence various candidates' chances.

  • With all four main jobs up for grabs in 2009, what are the repercussions from the necessities of balance? The four top jobs have to offer representation across severa divides: left vs. right, small states vs. major states, North and South, East and West, and I fear integrationist vs. delayers, too.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:26:05 AM EST
Partial inspiration for the above is:

stanley's blog : The 2009 EU Troika

A new EU Commission takes office on 1 November 2009. The Lisbon Treaty is expected to come into force officially on 1 January 2009 but this date may slip. There is talk of a postponement until 1 November, but this would be of doubtful validity.

This gives rise to an intriguing situation relating to three key appointments: President of the European Council (EC), Foreign Policy Chief (oka `High Representative for Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy') and President of the Commission. The orientation of the three and their ability to cooperate closely will be critical for the future of the Union.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On which positions does the EP have a say ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:05:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll pore over the consolidated version of the Treaty and report back.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:12:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the IEA's Treaty of Lisbon 2007: Consolidated Treaties version:
Article 14
1. The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.

...

  1. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.
The procedure is spelled out more fully in a later article:
Article 17
  • Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.

    The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3, second subparagraph, and paragraph 5, second subparagraph.

    The President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament. On the basis of this consent the Commission shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.

    8. The Commission, as a body, shall be responsible to the European Parliament. In accordance with Article 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Parliament may vote on a motion of censure of the Commission. If such a motion is carried, the members of the Commission shall resign as a body and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign from the duties that he carries out in the Commission.

  • So, the President of the Commission requires a qualified majority of the Council and a majority of the Parliament. The same is then true of the rest of the Commission including the HRCFSP who will be nominated by the Council and the President of the Commission jointly.

    The President of the European Council is not subject to any control by any other body. As such, he is more analogous to the President of the Parliament and should be a mostly ceremonial and procedural position. Executive and representational powers should be strictly limited to the Commission President and the HRCFSP, who are approved by all the European institutions and subject to Parliamentary control.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 06:59:31 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I wonder what would happen were the Parliament and the Council to be of different political persuasion. None as a clear legitimacy advantage over the other ; and whereas as migeru pointed out the council backed out in 2004, it was on a few commissioners, not on the commission president.

    Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
    by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 09:11:15 AM EST
    [ Parent ]

    The President of the European Council is not subject to any control by any other body. As such, he is more analogous to the President of the Parliament and should be a mostly ceremonial and procedural position.

    This is the reason why Blair is "playing hard to get"-- he knows that the position is hugely ceremonial and is saying that he wants the European Council president to have more powers.

    In my view, the job description of the E Council president as is or as you describe it should hold -- the position is an appointment, not elected, as you rightly pointed out, the 'appointed' person thus should stick to ceremonial and procedural duties.

    Blair would be the wrong man for the job; he is the quintessential underground lobbyist, a steamy wheeler dealer par excellence and if appointed, would be bound to do the EU great harm by causing division from within. The E Council president must be a consesus builder and not a divider.

    by The3rdColumn on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 09:27:44 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Assuming you ask about my "top four positions", then on the one stanley doesn't mention, its own President, a position to be renewed after the 2009 EP elections, too. (Current incumbent: Hans Pöttering/EPP/CDU.)

    I haven't checked out what exactly the EP will be able to do under Lisbon with the Commission President named by the Council.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:13:23 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Oh, and could the EP cease this absurdity of sharing its president's position between PSE and EPP ? This is a political assembly, and bipartisanship doesn't help making European politics any more understandable, and probably weakens the parliament.

    Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
    by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:17:07 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Just found, also relevant:

    EurActiv.com - Appointing the next European Council president | EU - European Information on EU Priorities & Opinion

    The nomination of the Council president is too important to take place amid behind-closed-doors negotiations between heads of government, writes Lamassoure on BlogActiv - arguing that the identity of the first holder will be crucial as he/she will give the position its "dimension and style". 

    Instead, the MEP suggests that candidates be invited to declare themselves publicly before a given deadline, calling for an end to "behind-closed doors manoeuvres" in favour of public competition. 

    He proposes that each one be given equal opportunity to state how he/she conceives the new role and outline his/her vision of the relationship with the Commission president and foreign policy chief during a televised hearing before the European Council. After the public hearings, the Council would select its new president by qualified majority vote

    It is believed the move would eliminate secrecy through increased media access, allowing the public to easily relate to the appointment process and thus giving the winning candidate greater legitimacy. 

    Meanwhile, Lamassoure explains the significance of the three new personalities - Council president, Commission president and foreign policy chief - assuming their positions at the same time. He warns that as the Lisbon Treaty does not prescribe any hierarchy between the positions and their competencies often overlap, the success of the new set-up will heavily depend on good relations between the individuals concerned. 



    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:05:17 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    One of the reasons De Gaulle was able to win the referendum on universal suffrage for the election of the President of the Republic was that the precedent presidential election, in 1954, had been covered by TV - so early in the TV period, politicians weren't aware of the dangers of it exposing to all their back room negotiations.

    The 1954 election was so disputed, that it went to the 13th round of voting. The election intervened recently after a very tough debate and split vote on the Communauté Européenne de Défense - the failure of which being the reason that the European Countries mainly developed the Common Market at first.

    The reason René Coty was eventually elected was that because he had suffered an heart attack at the time of the CED vote, he had not expressed any opinion on the issue and thus was the only candidate who could get the 3/5th majority needed to elect a president.

    A "public" debate requires universal suffrage. Why not set it up now ?

    Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

    by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:13:45 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I'm not sure what you propose in the last sentence: a directly elected Council President?

    If yes, I am strongly opposed: that would cement the Council's dominance feh' sure. I would swallow an elected Commission President, though I'd prefer its election by the EP.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:35:19 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    What I'm wondering about is a way to make elections European rather than a collection of national elections. How is that possible with parliament elections? Although the failure of single-man elections is that they give too much power to that man and lead to personality and popularity contests.

    I agree on your argument - the president of the Council shouldn't be elected by the population. What I'm wondering about is how the Bundesrat functions ; does its influence on Federal politics influence the State-level elections ? How is it followed by the press ?

    How long would the European population bear the undemocratic nature of the council, if made aware of it ? The US senators weren't nominated by governors for such a long time, too.

    Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

    by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:45:46 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    On 'Europeanising' parliament elections in the public's mind, I can think of two things: (1) have the EP parties run directly, rather than through their local branches; (2) make the Commission truly EP-elected, which would focus voterss' minds. Of course, the 'Eurosceptics' would oppose the latter change tooth-and-nails.

    On the Bundesrat: it is followed by the press, much more so than the EU Council, because they can block legislation passed by the elected lower chamber (the Bundestag), and negotiate a modified version (which IIRC then needs Bundestag approval again in each case). The federal-local entanglement is more complex than we can expect for the EU in the near future: it's not only that there are regional expectations on a state PM to deliver something, but state PMs also play party politics, and regional elections are often influenced by the mood on federal politics. Even if I don't think most voters consciously vote for changing the Bundesrat composition, there's the intent to change federal politics and it can bear results.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 06:17:39 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Bundestag vs. Bundesrat: GG Art. 77.


    "If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
    by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 02:17:33 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The Council President is not an executive position. It's a facilitator, and is also analogous to the Speaker of a parliamentary assembly (if you think of the Council as a Bundesrat or Senate, the President is like the Chairman).

    As such, I see no need for it to be directly elected.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:50:24 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    participated in the debate in the blog of Stanley Crossick about the new President (his comment).

    Note that Euractiv would not mention our petition because they felt they had already discussed the issue, but suggested that I open a blog with them.

    In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

    by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:37:18 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I think Euractiv's real beef was that posting this would make them partial, and they are supposed to be open to Bliarites, too.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:39:29 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I'll take a partial stab at the second point. On the first, since we're not in on the old male clique that so pisses off Wallström and us, we won't know for sure who's in the running. It appears that Solana will be retiring as HRCFSP.

    Given the political balance as it now stands, the four top jobs should probably be shared in the following way: 2 EPP, 1 PSE, 1 ELDR. The current arrangement is:

    • Commission President: Barroso (EPP)
    • EP President: Pöttering (EPP) for the second half of the term, Borrell (PSE) for the first half
    • HRCFSP and Council Secretary General: Solana (PSE)


    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:11:44 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Chances are that Solana and Barroso will continue on their jobs in 2009. For the EP, other PES and EPP members would.

    If we manage to blow Blair out of the water, Jean-Claude Juncker is the most likely Council President (which would not be a bad thing, IMO he's better for that job than as Commission President).

    We can still determine the Commission President through the elections for the EP, but there has to be a resounding loss for the EPP.

    by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:19:17 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The bit I don't understand is who reports to who?  If the High Representative for Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy disagrees radically with the President of the Council on a key foreign policy issue - e.g. rendition flights - how is the dispute resolved  Who is the boss in this situation - or is this a silly managerialist question to be asking?

    "It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
    by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:33:17 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Read the treaty, I guess.

    Depending on the situation, it seems possible to me that the answer could be the European courts, the Council, or the Commission. I haven't looked to see how that's set-up.

    by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:39:29 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The President of the Council doesn't have a policy portfolio, according to the Treaties.

    If enough Member State foreign ministers disagree with the HR then the area in question is not part of the "common" policy.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:49:17 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    European Tribune - The bigger picture
    The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

    How can the President of the Council represent the EU abroad if he doesn't have a policy portfolio and if external affairs is essentially the responsibility of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy?  This seems a recipe for role conflict - as has already begun:
    European Tribune - The bigger picture

    Now, Blair as president of the Council would want to usurp these attributions of the HRCFSP. That is what the whole Blair row is all about. A move of foreign relations from the Commission towards the Council, to a position somewhat in the middle of the two.

    In fact the President of the European Council role seems to be little more than Secretary General of the Council which is half the job Solana currently holds.

    So what's all the fuss about?  The actual job spec. is half of Solana's job plus a largely titular role to represent the EU abroad like a formal head of State with no policy or executive functions.

    Why would Blair even want that job?

    And what is the point of him saying he wants control of trade, foreign policy etc. if that is explicitly not in the Treaty definition of the President of the Council role?

    There is something funny going on here - all does not quite seem to be what it seems.  The Secretary General of the Council role seems to be a kind of fixer role for a good negotiator - someone like Bertie Ahern - but not really a prestigious or leadership role as neither the Commission nor the Foreign Policy Chief is under his/her control.

    It makes sense to create such a post because rotating the "President of the Council" role between 27 heads of Government every 6 months is clearly unworkable in terms of continuity and suitability, and all the Heads of Govt. have much more important and busy jobs to do heading up their own Governments.  

    But the job as defined seems to be all responsibility and no power - you are responsible for moving the EU forward and yet all the key functions are controlled by the commission, foreign policy chief, Parliament etc.

    The Chief of Staff to an American President - a role not even in the US constitution - seems to have a lot more power than this - as he controls most appointments, agendas and access to a President who has real power.

    I can't see how this is going to work long term - what is the plan for when the inevitable failure occurs - a directly elected President of the Council?

    "It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

    by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:38:06 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    "rotating the "President of the Council" role between 27 heads of Government every 6 months is clearly unworkable " technically should have read 27 foreign Ministers, but in practice it seems to be the Head of Government of the country holding the Presidency who takes the lead role at the moment.  I can't see Sarkozy, Brown, etc. being prepared to play second fiddle to the new Presidency of the Council role under any circumstances.

    "It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
    by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:52:04 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    The Council has various "configurations". The Foreign Minister chairs all the configurations, except when there is a summit every 3 months, at which the bug honchos meet and decide over whatever agreements their underlings have spent 3 months hashing out.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:00:03 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Well, Solana has been Secretary General for I don't know how many years and there hasn't been a meltdown.

    Frank Schnittger:

    But the job as defined seems to be all responsibility and no power - you are responsible for moving the EU forward and yet all the key functions are controlled by the commission, foreign policy chief, Parliament etc.
    No, the President of the Council is not responsible for moving the EU forward. It is responsible for getting the Council to stop bickering and stop negotiating. The Council and its unanimity rules are the biggest bottleneck in the Union, and the 6 month rotating presidency doesn't help because of the lack of continuity (an attempt at resolving this was the 18-month troika) and because the governments seem to be more concerned with grandstanding and legacy than with getting stuff done.

    So, yes, possibly a thankless job if you want lots of media projection, but a good job for a good diplomat (I hear Solana has been described as a consummate diplomat, BTW).

    How can the President of the Council represent the EU abroad
    Again, he doesn't have to, because he represents only the Council. The HR represents the EU abroad.
    I can't see how this is going to work long term - what is the plan for when the inevitable failure occurs - a directly elected President of the Council?
    Refer toThe bigger picture:
    The Council has, in fact, made a great big mess of the Treaties (and the Eastward expansion) since the ill-fated Nice summit at the end or the previous French Presidency in 2000. It's, in a way, their mess; it's taken them all this time to fix it and it's not clear that they have succeeded.


    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:58:21 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    getting the Council to stop bickering and stop negotiating.

    LOL! That would be the job for Bliar :-)

    Also loved "bug honchos" upthread.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:06:32 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    LOO, I can't type today.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:08:43 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Not totally, at least you have specified the case to some extent.

    As migeru says, the main question is how many, and which, member states back which entity. Neither has much power without member state backing.

    Though the high representative already exists, the position will be more cristallised under the new treaty, and the president is an entirely new position.

    How these positions evolve typically depends upon a number of policy fights -- that is, the institutions and their powers evolve as a set of commonly accepted rules of 'how things are done' emerges.

    The rules governing the high representative and the council president are vague enough for that, from what I've read in the Lisbon treaty -- though I did not read everything. But it's also something you see throughout the history of the EU and international institutions in general.

    For these reasons, the question which person will be the first in the office of president will be quite important.

    So, now you still don't know the anwer to your question, and you should have some new questions :-)

    by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:18:52 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    As it is currently there is the Foreign Minister of the rotating presidency, the HR, and the Commissioner for External Relations. This tricephaly was a problem: it was never clear who was in charge.

    The intent of the new treaty is to clear this mess by making the HR paramount. The letter of the new treaty has this bit about the President can represent the   council internationally without prejudice of the HR's attributions. So letter and intent are clear. The HR also has to report to the Parliament every 6 months, not so the Council President.

    This makes it clear why it is such a problem when Blair says "I'll be president if you give me foreign policy powers".

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 04:27:29 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    There is a revision of the budgetary framework coming up this year, and also a revision of the CAP.
    by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:20:27 AM EST
    Why can't we just remove the Council and make the Commission answer to the parliament's legislative initiative? Well, for two reasons. First "we" the people of Europe are represented democratically by our national governments. They compose the Council which is very analogous to a Senate (think: German Bundesrat). But as far as the structures of the EU are concerned the people are not directly sovereign. Sovereignty is delegated in the National Governments. EU treaties are entered into, in our name, by Plenipotentiaries of the member states. So, unless and until European policy at the Council becomes the number one political issue in a national election campaign, there will be no real chance of reform.

    "...through national elections" I want to add.

    So, what other options to we have? Through petitions we can only get the commision to consider something so that is no efficient way. I think the EP election is the obvious target for popular demands on EU reform. Sure, the EP lacking powers is the problem, but the EP has some power to say no, to block things. Wisely used that can be translated to wider powers.

    Say that we draft an EU Democracy Manifesto, spelling out a plan for greater democracy and then try to get candidates/parties to accept it (as many as possible). What would it contain?

    Preferably actions should be tied to the increase of power. Take the case of wanting the Commission elected (for real) by the parliament. Lets say that the EP refuses to accept a Commission President unless the Council agrees to nominate the one the EP majority would elect, would it be up to them (either through a mock election or a demand of getting to choose between the candidate of the party groups or something). Then the manifesto would include somthing like:

    "If elected, I will not vote to confirm a Commission President unless the European Parmliament through a fair and free election has choosen said Commission President."

    So, what other powers has the EP, what other reforms are needed for democratising EU and how can the EP use it powers to enforce change?

    Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

    by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 10:39:42 AM EST
    Too deep in code right now to talk to humans, but the question of democracy in the EU is tied up in the very form of the EU: is it a supra-national thing, a nation-state, a federal state?
    by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 10:54:23 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I say

    while (state=democratic)
    {
      people decide
    }

    A nation-state? Perhaps, if the people in EUrup start viewing themselves as EUrupeons. But that is not likely right now.

    Supra-national things are defined by treaties between states. Ruling by treaty is a neat way of removing the power from the governmental structures that in a democracy is influenced by the peoples opinions, so we will not get a democratic supra-national thing as that is a contradiction in terms. (Barring re-definition of supra-national thing.)

    So of your choices, we are left with a federal state if we want it to be democratic.

    Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

    by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 11:49:52 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Realised another thing as I read wikipedia:

    Politics of the European Union - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The latest European Parliament elections are now taken into account by leaders when appointing the President of the European Commission, hence in 2004 the Commission President came from the European People's Party, who were the largest party following the elections.

    If I remember correctly (and I think I do) the movements (up and down) were minimal. If the Council nominates based on the elections and they pick the winner based on largest party group, this will in effect serve to push the party groups into more mergers. The biggest one wins, remember. Thus in the long run we are looking at a two party system where the main price is the Commission presidency.

    Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

    by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:20:43 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Not necessarily. The Parliament approves the choice by a majority vote. This means you can have the case where the second and third parties decide to force the issue and oppose yet another candidate from the largest party. In national politics also (at least formally, on paper) the head of state proposes a candidate for head of government taking into account the result of the elections. This doesn't lead to two-party politics but it does seem to lead to two-bloc politics.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
    by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:26:51 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    I add that the EP also votes on the entire Commission.

    However, I would prefer if the Council wouldn't be the one nominating, but of course the largest EP party itself, and the Coulcil would come in later voting on approval after the EP did approve.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 05:23:26 AM EST
    [ Parent ]


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