merge-presidentsHow many presidents does it take to fix a sovereign debt crisis? If the answer is “loads”, then the EU should be doing well. The European Union has, since its birth as the European Coal and Steel Community, developed a confusing love-affair with the title of ‘President’. There’s the President of the European Parliament; the President of the European Council; the President of the European Commission and, still hanging on for dear life since the passing of the Lisbon treaty, the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Is there such a thing as too many presidents?

A little while ago, Debating Europe looked at a suggestion from Craig Willy that the positions of President of the European Commission and President of the European Council should be merged into one. This is also a proposal that was floated by Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier earlier this year. We took this idea to Ernst Stetter, Secretary General of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), for his reaction:

I fully agree with that, and one can also say that within the boundaries of the Lisbon treaty this is something that would be possible. It’s nowhere stated that the President of the Commission and the Council should be two separate people. It would be good if this position could be elected, possibly occupied by a personality known all over Europe. FEPS is arguing for this. But this is a political question. This is a question for Europe’s conservatives. They now have two conservatives in the top spots. A Europe with a strong personality is a much stronger Europe. And this is what the conservatives do not want to see.

We asked Mikołaj Dowgielewic, Poland’s EU Minister, to offer his own thoughts from the perspective of a member-state government (and a conservative member-state government to boot).

There are pros and cons. From a purely legal point of view, it is possible – apart from some problems that would be caused by the fact the Council President is accountable to the European Parliament, because they have different roles when it comes to accountability. Basically, the President of the Commission has to be endorsed by the Parliament and the President of the Commission doesn’t. But, apart from the legal issues, I think maybe in the future we’ll come to some sort of solution. On the other hand: the Commission has to be independent, it has a special treaty role, so we should also be a bit cautious about politicising it.

What do YOU think? Is the current situation too confusing? Do people know “who to call” when they want to speak to Europe? Or would merging the Council and Commission Presidents set us on a slippery slope? Let us know your thoughts in the form below.

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7 comments Post a commentcomment


  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    If he did the job that a President of any other multinational organization would do, I support it…To have a new over paid position and then have also the President of the Commission, the Presidents of the “heavyweights” of EU, also pulling their weight wanting to represent EU and speak for it…Then I am sorry , that won’t do….Either we have a President or not…Let Mr Van Rompuy do his job, or there is no need to have him..In the beginning I saw many times Mr Barosso and Mr Van Rompuy being together in a Summit, and Mr Van Rompuy looked more like his assistant (sorry)..

    Perhaps he was getting “the feel” of things, as the position was still new..Now days I see him more and more taking a lead, but then we have Mr Cameron, Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel also playing the roles of “EU Leaders”, never mind the Presidents of each country that hold the EU presidency..

    If I as an EU tax payer pay somebody a generous salary from my taxes to do a job, then I want to see them doing it..I trust that the person chosen is the most qualified for the job.
    In some countries it is the Parliament that votes for the President, in some others the President is elected directly by the people..Perhaps we should think about that too..Maybe he should be elected every 5 years together with the EP by the people..?? Just a thought…

    To me the President of the Commission should not be as public…The Commission has a certain role, we need a strong influential and capable person, to manage it..But not necessarily represent us in the summits…I do not see why we need the rotating Presidency since we pay for somebody to be the President…If we keep the rotating presidency, then perhaps we should not pay so much money for someone to be our President since we do not allow him to do his job properly?

    As for our national Presidents and PM, they should stick to their work representing their nations…

  2. avatar
    Willy De Backer

    This is the typical EU approach: thinking an new institutional arrangement, in this case, a European President, is the solution. Instead of a European President, we need new political and business leaders with long-term vision and the courage to tell people that the age of cheap energy and the age of perpetual economic growth is over. These leaders have to bring out-of-the-box solutions to start tackling the twin crisis of economic chaos and unsustainability.

    • avatar
      Daniel Mills

      Why can’t we have a European President telling people that the age of cheap, abundent (and sustainable) energy is only just beginning? By 2050, renewable energy will have overtaken fossil fuels as an energy source for Europe.

      More to the point, though: it’s just embarrassing (not to mention confusing) to see so many people representing the EU at international forums like the G8.

  3. avatar
    Marieta Okenkova

    Europe needs ONE strong leader with visions, so called visionary.

    • avatar
      Clive

      Um… no. This is precisely what Europe does NOT need. It does not need the EU to use the economic mess (which it caused) as an excuse to grab even more power. That is, however, what I fear we are seeing.

  4. avatar
    Matt dovey

    We don’t need a president because we don’t need an eu. Simple as that

  5. avatar
    max tasker

    I agree with Matt. Until the peoples of Europe are given a PROPER say as to whether they want an extra layer of Gov’t I don’t think this question is relevant

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