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!
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.
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.
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / WikiMedia – European People’s Party
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