Saturday, June 19, 2004

The President of the European Commission

The selection procedure is set out Article I-26.

At the outset, the constitution aims to inject a political element into the selection process, requiring that the European Council should “take into account” the elections to the European Parliament. This is behind some of the argument at the moment, with the EPP group in the European parliament demanding that the choice of president should reflect the political stance of the dominant group.

However, as we will find with so many things in the constitution, the wording is vague: what does "take into account" actually mean?

Anyhow, the European Council must have "appropriate consultations" with the parliament – whatever that means – but then it makes its choice by qualified majority voting. This means that the UK – or any other country – can be over-ruled and a candidate to which it objects can be imposed. If the constitution comes in, this is the last time that the UK can actually block a candidate,

Once the European Council has made its choice, the final decision is up to the federal European parliament. It must elect the president by "a majority of its members". If the parliament cannot decide, however – i.e., there is no majority – then the candidate is not appointed. The European Council steps in again and, acting by a qualified majority, has one month to propose another candidate, who then has to be elected by the parliament, as before.

As to the rest of the Commission, the Council (it is not clear here whether the constitution is referring to the European Council or the Council of Ministers) then adopts a list of “other persons” “by common accord with the President-elect” – whatever that means. The Commission is then voted in as a body by the parliament, following which the European Council, again by QMV.

As to resignations, a member of the Commission is required to resign if the President so requests. A slightly different procedure is set out for the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Looking at this while article in the round, what the constitution effectively does is reduce substantially the right of any member state government to select and appoint the president of the Commission, and vest the ultimate choice in the parliament which – by and large – shares the Commission’s integrational ambitions. The system now favours, therefore, the appointment of a president dedicated to furthering European integration. In any event, this does not in any way strengthen the powers of the member states.

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