The Guest Blog

By Andres Laiapea, conservative and a member of the Pirate Party in Estonia.

There has been a lot of talk on how the direct election of the President of the European Commission could provide democratic legitimacy. But it might in fact backfire in the most devastating manner.

It appears many agree by now that there is a crisis of democratic legitimacy in the EU, and some – most notably Tony Blair, Guy Verhofstadt, Wolfgang Schaeuble, Radek Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle – have proposed the direct election of the President of the European Commission as a solution to this problem. They think it would improve turnout and help voters feel less alienated from Brussels.

On the other hand, others, such as Herman Van Rompuy, have argued that it would “organise the disappointment in advance” if the “huge legitimacy” stemming from the direct election is not going hand in hand with large powers for the Commission.

But what if these elections will actually turn out to be a major failure?

There are, no doubt, many citizens who support the principle of direct elections, but this does not mean they would be happy with the choice given.

If the President of the European Commission would be directly elected, I asked in a poll in my blog recently, for whom would you vote? Daniel Cohn-Bendit? Martin Schulz? Herman Van Rompuy? Guy Verhofstadt? 54% of respondents said they would invalidate ballot papers. 40% said they would not go to vote at all.

A simple poll in a personal blog is of course by no means representative of a majority opinion, but it does illustrate certain risks that should be taken seriously.

The direct election of the President of the European Commission may in fact lead to the final collapse of the EU’s democratic legitimacy, quite contrary to the intentions of those who support it, or at least spark new tensions among member states. This is a major risk, and it should not be taken lightly.

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  1. Sorry, the example of the survey is not meaningful. Three months before every national elections, a large share of the electorate would not vote or have no idea. They need time to know the candidates. For the case of the EU president, not only it is a complete novely – first time people would vote a foreigner – but we still dont know who are the candidates!

    Of course the current autocrates, as van Rompuy, would probably not even run for presidency because they lack of “charisma”. New people will show up.

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