Does Europe need a directly-elected President? The 2014 European Parliament elections saw the President of the European Commission indirectly-elected via the so-called “Spitzenkandidat” (or “leading candidate”) process. This saw the main European political parties nominate a lead candidate, who would become Commission President if that party won the greatest number of votes in the elections.

The Spitzenkandidaten are not directly-elected by citizens, but rather by Members of the European Parliament. This is quite common in parliamentary democracies; for example, the British Prime Minister is not directly-elected, but is rather elected by the House of Commons. Actually, it’s even messier than that. There is never even a formal vote to ratify the British Prime Minister, instead it being enough that the opposition is unable to call a vote of no confidence.

Technically, the Spitzenkandidat process doesn’t appear anywhere in the EU treaties. The European Council is supposed to nominate the next EU Commission President (merely “taking into account” the results of the popular vote). However, the European Parliament ultimately has a veto over the EU Council’s nominee, and they have promised to nix any nomination that isn’t the winning Spitzenkandidat. If the leaders of the EU-27 don’t like it and try to sabotage the process, then that way lies a constitutional crisis.

Wouldn’t it be better, though, to simplify things? Give the vote directly to citizens, and let the candidates campaign across the European Union. There is currently no institution or individual who represents ALL Europeans directly and collectively. The European Council represents Member State governments (not citizens directly), the European Parliament represents citizens from the various Member States (but not directly all European citizens collectively).

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Bruno arguing that the President of the European Commission should be directly elected by citizens from across the European Union as a way to confer greater democratic legitimacy on the EU. Frankly, Bruno sees it as the only way to keep the EU from splitting apart. Is he right?

Should the President of the European Commission be directly elected? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!

Radical Left
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE-NGL), Chair of the GUE-NGL, Member of the European Parliament:

Rebecca Harms (Group of the Greens), Member of the European Parliament:

Liberal Democrats
Nils Torvalds (ALDE), Vice-Chair of the ALDE Group, Member of the European Parliament:

Centre Right
Christofer Fjellner (EPP), Member of the European Parliament:

Morten Messerschmidt (ECR), Member of the European Parliament:

I would say that I regard the Commission, first and foremost, as an administrative entity and I would wish that political decisions be made primarily by the truly democratically-elected institutions, which are the ones in the Member States: the governments. And, therefore, I do not believe that the Commission, nor the Commission President, should be directly elected or elected via a Spitzenkandidat procedure. Rather, I would pass more of the political influence that is now in the Commission to the Member States in the Council.

Rolandas Paksas (EFDD), Vice-Chair of the EFDD Group, Member of the European Parliament:

The President of the European Commission should not be elected directly because it would allow for an imbalance of the authorities’ political power. The President of the Commission should be the highest-ranking officer of the Community executive appointed and recalled by the European Parliament.

Curious to know more about how the President of the European Commission is currently chosen? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / WikiMedia – European People’s Party
With the support of:


Who do YOU agree with on this issue?


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85 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Sam

    The EU are dictators do not no the meaning of democracy

    • Milos

      Sam, go back to school kid.

    • Ivan

      Milos, You do know El Presidente Juncker was unelected don’t you ?, hence the question posted by debating Europe. Maybe you need to go back to school comrade.

    • Sam

      Ivan, hence unelected people over ridding elected governments l

    • Ivan

      That’s how its done at the moment.

  2. Attila

    Yes of course !
    Nowdays the President is a representant of imperialism and global capitalism.

    • Uli

      Not sure..the system now is a compromise between national states and european cooperation. Europe is not ready for more. Would you accept a german president probably every time? And what benefit would it have to elect him directly?

  3. Terry

    Defiantly not! That would give him legitimancy and he would abuse his position more than he does now.

  4. Kirstie

    In theory nice idea but I have a feeling it would end up like euro vision

  5. JD

    More importantly, the European Parliament should be allowed to initiate legislation – currently it is not allowed. Most people do not know this.

    What ‘democratic’ Parliament in the world cannot do this?

    • Ivan

      That is the role for elected National governments, not the unelected European Politburo’s rubber stamping department.

    • JD

      Ivan, thanks for acknowledging that it is a mostly powerless institution to make us think the EU is a democracy :-)

    • Ivan

      JD, It’s time people knew the truth about the unwanted political EU.

  6. Ivan

    More importantly ‘Should the people in the EU be asked if they actually want a president at all, elected or otherwise ?’

  7. Ingrid

    The fact that this is in debate doesn’t bode well for the EU. That those who “run” the EU are not subjected to democratic election is scandalous.

    • Ivan

      That’s because they gained their position and power through the antidemocratic Lisbon Treaty, they knew it would be rejected if they asked the people of the Nations in the EU so they didn’t ask them.

  8. Valentin

    Yes.That way we have an legitimate european government. But with one condition:12 ministers.

  9. Peré

    I prefer the parliamentary system with the parliament appointing and firing the commission with a normal majority individuelly. And it would be prefered if people appointed to the commission, come from the people elected to the parliament. A directly elected president like in the US gives in my opinion to much power is a single person without direct oversight

  10. James

    Yes and we might see an equal Europe not just Germany and France.

    • Ivan

      Only money matters and Germany has it so they own the EU, no matter what fake democratic system they invent in Brussels.

  11. Rob

    Yes, but if the dream of our project is to survive it must be fully democratic, with a politically elected democratic mandate in the hands of the European People within an accountable Parliament. We need a second elected senate chamber comprised of experts to moderate and ensure scrutiny of our legislation. The party with the most seats should form a government.

    • Ivan

      Is that the EU dream of trade people were told it was or the political dream they got without being asked ?

    • Panagiotis

      Ivan, you sir have found what is exactly wrong with Europe today. Bravo!

  12. Dario

    The commission should function as governments functions in most countries, with a clear separation between legislative (parliament) and executive (commission). Then we can discuss about his/her election

  13. Fernando

    EU without full democracy is just an strange lobby heated by citizens.

  14. Martti

    Yes and no. Bit more fairness and chrystal clear politics would correct the current system.

  15. Andrea

    Ahahahahahah… people still believe the EU is a democracy ahahahahahah…
    How naive…
    Blissfully ignorant

  16. Ze

    We wouldn’t have this corrupt zombie for sure.

  17. Daniel

    Yes for commission and for eu parlament , eu semopresidential system also the state should be called United States of Europe

  18. Hrisstof

    You have to make an unofficial tour of the Bulgarian regions and see what can be analyzed by misery and misery, not to popularize “Western Balkans”. If you are looking for it, if you believe it will lie to you. The Bulgarian priority is everything that the EU implements and the time it is applied and is a real fact with a solution for that time. Every hybridity leads to inevitable friability … and the astronomical clan to take part in the decision is the little of the Trojan horse. The debate on EU security goes through consolidation, standards, rights, and new forms of EU governance based on fairness and independence. Greetings from me ®

  19. Jerzy

    The President of the European Commission should be elected in direct election, but only if country of his origin could not vote for him. Otherwise, the the most numerous country would decide.

  20. Profile photo of Alcindo Ribeiro
    Alcindo Ribeiro

    I think that one way’s for a modification into the European staightening. So I’m with a President of the European Commission election directly.

  21. Simon

    Definitely!! Europe and the EU urgently needs more elected posts! Just keep in mind that even in the US they have major important elections every 2 years, we should go this path to bring the “Project EU” closer to the people, and more direct democracy! ;-)

  22. EU Reform - Proactive

    Under the present (unsatisfactory) dispensation, the EU should- time being- follow the practices of a parliamentary democracy. Parliament appoints, recalls & impeaches.

    However, the whole political structure of the EU [never becoming a sovereign country- but aiming to become one “step by step”] needs to be re-visited by all 27 members within the context of the greater aims of the CoE.

    The EU is on a (fanatical) political, social, fiscal & military dead end mission- achieving deeper disunity then unity, wasting valuable resources & time.

    Being over eager & power hungry, its early design to improve & let its economies grow, cooperate fair & square and create welfare together for the (equal) benefit all- have become a lesser factor nowadays. (“ref: the negative in house comparative advantage”)

    The EU in conjunction with the CoE should embark on a “Re-assessment conference”! All should figure out a better way forward- taming the EU’s (destructive) influences.

    Stop breaking up the sovereignty of all national states. There are other ways- such search should be on!

  23. Peter

    The president of the commission and the council should only be elected by the parliament

  24. Björn

    Yes or The parlamentet elect ihm and hej elect The EU govrement

  25. Karolina

    Doesn’t sound like his powers and duties warrant such a time-consuming exercise.

    The Greek president is also not elected by the people.

    I am happy for things to stay as they are.

    • Karolina

      Only officials with legislative powers should be elected.

  26. Eric

    Then people would start complaining the President is from a big country everytime. Thanks, but no, thanks

  27. Paul

    The biggest problem with the EU is not how the politicians are “elected”, but how can you get rid of them when they fail to perform.
    EU politicians get a lot of money for very little responsibility, any of their failings are easily blamed on national governments and even if some of the more incompetent officials were weeded out, you can be sure they would be “retired ” on a taxpayers funded pension worth more than any hard working member of the public could ever dream of

  28. Tarquin Farquhar

    The EU is Germany’s plaything – the only people who would be put up for such a laughable EU election would be sanctioned by Germany first ergo the whole process as is the case now will be UNDEMOCRATIC.

  29. Paul X

    “the British Prime Minister is not directly-elected, but is rather elected by the House of Commons”
    A typical Euro-fudge statement designed to try and justify the lack of democracy in the EU

    The British Prime Minister is also an elected member of parliament voted in by the people of Maidenhead…..

    … when was the last time any member of the public voted for Juncker?

    • James McManama

      Come on, Paul…

      The European Commission President was also an elected Prime Minister, voted in by the people of Luxembourg.

      Now, the people of Maidenhead didn’t get to vote directly for Juncker. But then, the people of Glasgow South didn’t get to vote directly for Theresa May either.

      You can argue it’s not democratic because democracy must be based on a single nation-state. But the UK isn’t a nation-state, either. It is a union of (at least) four nations.

    • Paul X

      @ James, the fact he was an elected ex Prime minister is totally irrelevant to his current position, which is exactly why posed the question “when was the last time…etc”

      Like it or not, Theresa may has a public vote behind her position as an MP, the fact she is also Prime Minister is pretty much secondary as decisions are made by government for which the PM is just the mouth piece

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