The 27th of May Angela Merkel, after dining with her fellow heads of state and government, told the press that, two days after the elections, several options for the successor of José Manuel Barroso were still on the table. She added that a range of EU top jobs could only be decided in negotiations running until late June. Only one of these jobs is that of the President of the European Commission. But if not a candidate backed by the European Parliament, then who will be the next President of the Commission? And why is Merkel hesitant in supporting Juncker who belongs to the same broad political family as she does and received her support just weeks ago?
During the last couple of weeks the European Parliament’s different fractions have each put forward candidates who have their backing. Jean-Claude Juncker has the blessing of the European People’s Party, Martin Schulz of the Party of European Socialists, Guy Verhofstadt of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and Ska Keller of the European Green Party.
Now where did the MEPs get the nerve to do such a severely democratic thing? We all remember the times when the Parliament wrote suggestions and mailed them to the Commission only to be left unopened. Well, the Treaty of Lisbon is breaking new ground in 2014 by introducing a direct link between the results of the European elections and the choice of the Commission’s President. From now on, the European Council (the collection of the EU’s heads of states and government) must “take account of the results in the Parliament when nominating the person it intends to appoint as President of the Commission.”
In the land of the blind…
I guess most of you already see a problem arise… For the European vague and fuzzy lingo has never been applied more forcefully. However, now that the European elections are behind us and provisionally each of the fractions respectively has 214, 191, 64 and 52 MEPs, it would seem only fair that at least one of these candidates will become the next President of the European Commission.
In fact, it would seem most just that the candidate backed by the largest fraction of directly elected Members of the European Parliament, would be chosen. Do not get me wrong, I am certainly not part of the Juncker fan club and although I will keep my vote secret, I did not back the Belgian Christian-Democrats who belong to the European People’s Party fraction.
In fact, if Juncker were chosen, this would be far from ideal as well because this would unmistakably be a case of indirect elections. The MEPs, directly and democratically elected, choose a candidate, who is not elected, who should then receive backing from the European heads of states and governments. And although these member of the European Council are in some cases, but certainly not all, directly elected, not a single citizen has, at any point, given them the go-ahead to choose the head of the European Commission. But hey, when it comes down to European democracy, one cannot be picky. This is the most democratic option on the table and European citizens should grab it with both hands.
What’s at stake?
Now, as mentioned earlier, Angela Merkel, who publicly backed Juncker just weeks ago, has noted that other options should not be excluded. What will these options be, Frau Merkel? Do the, mostly unelected, heads of state and government prefer someone else? Allow me to remind you that you are one of these heads of state not directly elected. One of the first tasks performed by each new Bundestag (German Parliament) is to elect a Federal Chancellor. The largest fraction in the Bundestag obviously has the last word but you have not been directly elected as Chancellor of Germany by the German people.
After the 2014 elections, that took place from 22 to 25 May 2014, the number of Eurosceptic MEPs has increased significantly. Currently they are attempting to form their own political fraction in the European Parliament. Having already found MEPs to join from five member states, they are well on their way. A bit of modesty among the traditional European leaders would be welcome and fitting. If the European Council does not welcome the additional level of democracy the Lisbon Treaty has brought into the equation, I will no longer know what to say to Eurosceptics who heckle the lack of democracy in the European institutions. And frankly, I don’t think I would like to continue trying either. I am sure a great deal of young people who still believe in the European idea will feel the same way. If you want an increase in Euroscepticism and a European Parliament that after the election of 2019 will dissolve itself, please do select some hot shot nobody has ever heard of and who scarcely will receive the backing of the Parliament.
Now we can ask ourselves why the heads of state and government are so reluctant to allow democracy to creep into the appointment of the President of the European Commission. Of course the age old rivalry between the different institutions, especially the Commission and the Parliament, plays its part but I wonder if there is not more at play.
Think about it, what happens when the heads of state and government select some top politician who does not have the backing of the people? He becomes head of this machine that, especially today, has mainly been occupied with supporting and, in some cases such as Greece, imposing unpopular measures, more specifically an austerity policy that is hurting an immense number of people. The heads of state and government can avoid putting their neck on the line as their electorate will blame the EU for what is happening in their respective countries. Is this why Merkel is so hesitant to back one of the candidates supported by the fractions of the European Parliament? Because, except for Juncker, all of these candidates are former Members of the European Parliament that have public support to some degree and have received this support in promoting a variety of programs mostly evading right wing economics because, as we all know, promoting austerity is not a great way to convince people to vote for you.
I sincerely hope the European Council will make the correct decision and nominate a candidate that is backed by the European Parliament, the only elected institution of the European maze. If not, each and every one of them will be responsible for the demise of the Union as we know it. And a growing part of the population will, rightly, be delighted about just that.Blogactiv Team