FOR A DIRECTLY-ELECTED EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT

AGAINST A DIRECTLY-ELECTED EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT

1. SOMEONE TO REPRESENT ALL EUROPEANS

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). A directly-elected President of the European Commission would fill that role.

1. TOO MUCH POWER TO THE COMMISSION

Directly-electing the President of the European Commission would upset the balance of power between the EU institutions; it would increase the power of the Commission at the expense of the EU Member States and the European Parliament. True democracy in Europe rests with national parliaments, so strengthening the power of the Commission would be profoundly undemocratic.

2. GREATER DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY

The EU clearly has a democratic deficit, with frequent complaints of “unelected officials” interfering in national politics. Well, direct elections for the European Commission President would help silence those criticisms. The EU would have much greater democratic legitimacy, giving the Commission President a clear mandate from the people.

2. EUROPE IS A PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

By-and-large, EU Member States are parliamentary democracies. Citizens vote to elect Members of Parliament, and the party with the greatest number of MPs forms the next government. It’s true that France is a presidential democracy, but this is more-or-less the exception. Europeans are most familiar with parliamentary democracy, and so EU politics should function the same way.

3. PUTTING A HUMAN FACE ON THE EU

Where does the buck stop in Europe? The EU is so complex and byzantine that responsibility and accountability are often obfuscated; European policymakers are cast by populists as so-called “faceless bureaucrats”. Simplifying things makes the system more democratic. Voters know who to blame if things go wrong, and they can finally match a face and personality to the EU.

3. PRESIDENT WHO?

Most Europeans do not have a deep understanding of the workings of the EU institutions, and there are very few personalities with name recognition across the continent. Asking voters to care about the appointment of the EU’s chief bureaucrat is a tall order, especially as EU elections already have much lower voter turnouts than national elections. The risk is that direct elections would confer the veneer of greater democratic legitimacy without the post holder being properly held to account by voters.

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