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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155 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    The EU are dictators do not no the meaning of democracy

    • avatar

      Sam, go back to school kid.

    • avatar

      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.

    • avatar

      Ivan, hence unelected people over ridding elected governments l

    • avatar

      So you want the Commission to be directly elected?

    • avatar

      That’s how its done at the moment.

  2. avatar

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

    • avatar

      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. avatar

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

  4. avatar

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

  5. avatar

    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?

    • avatar

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

    • avatar

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

    • avatar

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

  6. avatar

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

  7. avatar

    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.

    • avatar

      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. avatar

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

  9. avatar

    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. avatar

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

    • avatar

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

  11. avatar

    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.

    • avatar

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

    • avatar

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

  12. avatar

    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. avatar

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

  14. avatar

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

  15. avatar

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

  16. avatar

    We wouldn’t have this corrupt zombie for sure.

  17. avatar

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

  18. avatar

    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. avatar

    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. avatar
    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. avatar

    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. avatar
    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. avatar

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

  24. avatar

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

  25. avatar

    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.

    • avatar

      Only officials with legislative powers should be elected.

  26. avatar

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

  27. avatar

    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. avatar
    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. avatar

    “agree with” and “political groups” are incompatible terms for me… We can’t trust politicians anymore.

  30. avatar

    No because that would imply the EU is a Nation State which it is not and never will be.

    • avatar

      George he has made a valid point however so have you. If a union should be created in the EU it should be federal states. This united states of Europe is as pathetic as China being communist.

    • avatar

      Paschalis Only a handful of fanatics want a federalist EU, the vast majority of people are Nationalists, no what what Brussels thinks.

    • avatar

      Ivan I wouldn’t say that, no one ever measured the actual percentages. It is also obvious that nation states cannot function properly anymore. I don’t say that a federal EU is the ultimate sollution, I just say that we need a solution, and not a step backwards. Also, the very idea of nation states brought our beloved continent down to the ashes and down from the number 1. power center of the world.

    • avatar

      Péter The EU is an attempt at a solution created in the 1950’s for problems of the 1930’s. It offers nothing for the future except the same mistakes of the 1930’s but with a different antidemocratic political system. As the trade barriers around the world fall Nation States will have no reason to be in the closed customs union that is the EU. Trump threatening the EU with tariffs if it doesn’t open its markets to US businesses is only the start but the anger from Brussels is amusing given it is threatening the UK with the same type of tariffs.

    • avatar

      Ivan I don’t agree. The EU _was_ an attempt to ensure peace and prosperity over the west part of the continent instead of the “costly” wars and colonial economics. I certainly do agree that it never was what the common people actually wanted; they were too much infected with nationalism and socialism; ideas which only led us Europeans to tears and destruction. Not to mention the Eastern part of the continent, which was divided between 3 monarchies 100 years ago, and now we have a dozen nation states after, once again, unnumbered tears and destruction (+40 years of communism). You need to look at the bigger picture, I think. The future of the continent hangs on a thread, our demographic, scientific, economic and political power is going to be much smaller, than it is today. We do not have a future as separated national states. We cannot even uphold our position as national states. We will unite, or we will fall. About that I cannot be convinced otherwise. About the way we unite, is a whole different thing though. I think the EU project is fundamentally flawed, and I do agree with several of your former statements in previous threads. Neoliberal and autocratic leadership is a straight way to undermine the democratic support of the institution, and the (very much flawed) indirect decision-making process is something people don’t care about. Eg. you mentioned the US-EU relations, but please count the common Europeans who know what the damn heck TTIP means. That’s the problem, not the core idea of the EU. If we could increase democratic participation in the EU project, this could turn out very nicely.

    • avatar

      Péter NATO has kept the peace in Europe, the EU had nothing to do with it. Not even empire building Europeans with a flag and a plan to unite Europe are stupid enough to start a war with their neighbours with a million heavily armed NATO troops & ICBM’s stationed on the continent. This may change though given Brussels determination to destroy NATO. I doubt very much an EU army will stop the Russians. What is the EU if not a new & fake Nation ? At every turn people reject the pointless EU from the European constitution rejected by the French so renamed the Lisbon treaty to sidestep democracy through to the 2014 MEP elections, Brexit, the German election, the Italian election and even the French election. People are Nationalists and always rejected forced colonisations, why was it bad when the old empire Nations did it but its ok for the EU to do it ?. Nationalism rules & will always trump the forced solidarity of Brussels.

    • avatar

      Ivan dude, there’s no “forced solidarity”. Not at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you don’t want to erase your discriminating constitution or retain some weird laws, go ahead, you can do it in the EU. Lisbon treaty even allowed to pass the Czech Benes decrees which is clearly against the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Whatever the case, no one can “force solidarity” upon you. Yeah well, nationalism led us to bloody destruction, if we want to continue that, please continue demolishing the EU. Regarding the NATO issue… An EU army can stop Russia anytime, politically, millitarily and economically as well. France has a veto power in the UN Security Council, the EU has better and more troops than Russia and even Spain can be comprable to Russia in terms of GDP. Russia is a declining power.

    • avatar

      Péter You seriously believe the German people would forget their history and send their young men to die for Poland & what of the neutral Nations in the EU ? If so I would be interest to hear your thinking on generations of people changing their opinion on war just to protect an EU they do not particularly want in the first place.. Of course EU solidarity is forced & you only have to look at the threats aimed at Greece during the start of the Euro crisis and the present threats aimed at Poland & Hungary today. Nationalism saved you from European lunatics with a flag and a plan to unite Europe, Or was the USA, the UK and resistance fighters across Europe fight the Nazi in the name of the EU dream ? Today’s EU fanatics are the ideological off spring of those at the original Nuremberg Rally.. Below is just a small example of ‘forced solidarity’.

  31. avatar

    Yes. Europe needs to be incarnated by a person. Moreover, the election by all the people European can only weld these people and give a greater legitimacy to the commission.

    • avatar

      I think that would be difficult for now. Probably everyone would vote with someone from their biggest country would win

    • avatar

      Do we still have countries in the EU? I can’t see the borders anymore, hence the question.

  32. avatar

    Only people who register in the site can vote. Well that won’t alter the results of the vote at all…

  33. avatar

    va fi Merkel moderata in politica sa externa sau va vrea sa conduca impreuna cu Franta ,Europa.
    There will be moderate merkel in its foreign policy or will want to lead with France, Europe.

  34. avatar
    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?

    • avatar
      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.

    • avatar
      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

    • avatar
      Dave R

      Paul X exactly – smoke and mirrors – lying by ommission – omittimg that the UK PM stood as the head of her party and effectively said to the electorate “if the majority of you vote for my parties candidates (including me!) then I will become prime minister and form a government”.

      Most representative democracies work this way. Parliament is sovereign, and the people elect the parliament. In the european system, the 28 comissioners are appointed by the 28 member states, and then one of these unelected people is appointed president by the largest political grouping in the european parliament.

      One of the worst things about the eu is the constant trickery to try and get us to believe things that simply are not true, and the vast effort used in the same vein to convince us to feel “european” to ease the imposition of a european super state.

      Lets go back to a trading block, with common standards and ditch the political apparatus and the accompanying self serving apparatchiks.

    • avatar
      Dave R

      PS – Lord Buckethead stood against Theresa May in her Maidenhead constituency – I think it would have been great if he had won – surely would make a better MP than TM!

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Dave, I totally agree, unfortunately his policies were too middle of the road compared to some of the madness our current politicians dream up..

    • avatar

      So like America and Russia. Great systems

  35. avatar

    More importantly should the peoples in the EU be asked if they want a European commission & its rubber-stamping department (European parliament) in the first place ? But the EU fanatics already know the answer so will never ask the question.

  36. avatar

    well given the way elections are going these days, what would have been a clear yes a couple of years ago is not so much now. So at the moment no, but it could be more transparent and democratic for example, putting nominees up, info on who supports them and why and what their talents are, and some feedback to national governments. I think Juncker has undoubtedly been the worse commissioner we have had, is it appropriate for a tax haven like luxembourg to even field a commissioner. The eu parliament must ratify commission decisions now so we already need to make more use of our MEPs (that is down to us). Having something a-political is not always bad, but more about their talents for the job, it is a civil servant’s job, not a politicians and maybe we need to keep the CS, the judiciary and the politics separate, but more transparency is needed and feedback to nat govs given. The commission for example, should not be a ‘reward’ for failed politicos like Mandelsohn that politicians like blair had to (however reluctant he was) remove from national politics and then reward them with a job on the commission, that needs to stop.

  37. avatar

    I think it is obvious that whether a politician is elected or selected it doesn’t change the fact that they serve corporations instead of and at the expense of people.

  38. avatar

    Given Juncker’s admiration of Marxist ideology does it matter ? The European Parliament is just an unasked for assembly who’s only role is to rubber stamp the unelected European Politburo’s dictates so asking members of that assembly is meaningless. The people you should be asking are 500 million in the EU who have had both the European Politburo and the European Parliament forced on them through a treaty and not via democracy.

    • avatar

      Yes, but the EU does not have an unelected chamber like the UK.
      It does not have an unelected monarch that has influence on political life as well.

    • avatar

      Fabrice The Queen plays no part in Law making in the UK, the unelected House of Lords doe not make law in the Uk, only the ‘elected’ House of Commons does.

      Were the peoples in the EU asked if they wanted a commission president and his hand picked Politburo ?

      Were the peoples in the EU asked if you wanted a European Parliament ?

      The French were asked and they said NO, this fact alone makes the EU a dictatorship by definition and not a democracy.

    • avatar

      i don’t think you have a vote on what matters to you…
      politicians whether national or europeans excise their role entrusted by us , just like we do our jobs.

    • avatar

      Gianfranco Who exactly ‘entrusted’ Juncker and his politburo with the lives of 500 million people ?, certainly not those 500 million people. Being president of the EU is not a job, it is a supreme power which answers to no one, pretty much in the same way Stalin did and Xi Jinping & Kim Jong-un do now which makes the EU a dictatorship, not a democracy .

  39. avatar

    President of the Council . President of the Commision…president of the parliament how many do you need ?

    • avatar

      I know, right? What is it with these European states and their desire to have separate branches of government.

    • avatar

      A good democracy requires;
      – a president (or a King/Queen)
      – a prime minister
      – a president of the parliament (Mr Speaker)
      – and a president of a Supreme Court

      How is this different from modern democracies ?

    • avatar

      Oh yes.. .also president of CJEU..not forgetting president of ECB . .still whats in a name ?

  40. avatar

    I think the head should be elected by the heads of governement. I dont agree with Juncker in many things (i believe the EU can be the nr1 world power, he doesnt, i believe, though extremely difficult, we can get Norway and Switzerland to join, britain to reenter and one day even Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey and he doesnt, etc.) but hes done a great, great job despite all the shit thrown at him, i think the heads if state choosing ensures quality, fairness for all 27 members, and is democratic because the heads of state are chosen. What i thimk should be chosem in direct population voting is the commision section head of each country, with national parties all proposing their most technically qualified member for the post

  41. avatar

    Zap I really appreciate your comment!! Beside my humble opinion I haven’t heard a lot of people suggesting Russia could one day join!;-)
    As for Turkey, it’s a shame for now, but they have lost their momentum to join. Then we should engage them more, not less!!;-)

  42. avatar
    Bert van Santen

    Truly, I don`t believe it will change ANYTHING.
    The politicians do want they want, when they want it, and with whom

  43. avatar

    UE lobbies, parliamen, comission, council, etc are mafias out of democratic control and over paid by our taxes. More or less than in the middle period.

  44. avatar

    I think this shouldn’t even be up for debate….
    For debating is a trait democracy has!

  45. avatar

    What about scrapping European Union oligarchic construction all together and build a real European democratic federation following the Swiss model?

  46. avatar

    No, as no where in MS administration officials are elected by Parliament.

  47. avatar

    No for the simple reason he would be accountable if he was elected and that is the last thing the EU fanatics want.

  48. avatar

    The question is why he/she is not directly elected…

  49. avatar

    If he was directly elected he would probably always be german, since they are the most numerous. It would be more democratic, but seen by most as less democratic.

  50. avatar

    should the think tanks ask the same questions for 60 years since 1958? should we do more than the euro and the peace? is the youth happy with the speed of reforms? where are the billions of R&D “assigned” to SME’s?

  51. avatar

    The parliamentary model we currently have has worked for most European nations.
    People choose the parliament, parliament appoints commissionar/Prime minister.
    But I do believe the president of the commission and parliament should have more freedom when chosing their cabinet. Switching the influenze of the council of goverment leaders and the parliament. Then the Parliament nominates and the council approves or veto’s. The parliament and the commission should also be fireble by a normal majority. Instead of the current 2/3 necessary to fire them.

  52. avatar
    Adriana Masha

    I do not think that the citizens of certain countries have the maturity required for such a vote.
    In my country, after democratic elections, we are led by at least suspect leaders.. Unfortunately, not only in my country I see this phenomenon.

  53. avatar
    nikos zarboutis

    Direct election has always been a better approach to dwmocracy. The risk is that too much power is concentrated into one person.

  54. avatar

    Yes, of course ! If there is a democracy…

  55. avatar
    Stanislav Stoynev

    Direct Democracy can change the system.
    Yes, directly.

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