Who should select the European Commission?

Commission group2 0

The European Commission.
From the official text: "The Commissioners, one from each EU country, are the Commission's political leadership during a 5-year term. Each Commissioner is assigned responsibility for specific policy areas by the President".

By Ole Aabenhus
"We suggest that the European Parliament (EP) should select the Commission", writes Charles Harvey after group work at the My!Europe conference in Canterbury organised by the Sonnenberg Association of Great Britain (SAGB) earlier this month.

According to the group, the present system (see below) should be turned upside down in order to bring the Commission and the entire EU-system closer to the citizens and establish a bottom-up selection process.

The commissioners should be nominated by their national MEPs in such a fashion that "national parliamentary delegations should nominate a commissioner from their own members".

"So, for example, the Swedish MEPs would elect one of their group as the Swedish Commissioner. This would have then to be approved by the EP as a whole".

"If approved, the MEP's seat would be filled by the next person with the highest number of votes from the electoral list".

"The Commission would then elect its President from amongst its own members. The whole Commission and its portfolios would then need the approval of the EP".

"There should be an agreement to prevent any one member state dominating the Presidency".

By tradition, the Commission chairman is proposed by the member states through the Council of Ministers, and then voted by the European Parliament. In 2014, however, the Commission chairman – Jean-Claude Juncker - was for the first time ever elected through a so-called  "Spitzenkandidaten" selection, meaning that the large parties in Parliament each appoints a candidate for the post of Commission Chairman, - and they all agree that only one person will get Parliament's support, namely the candidate of the party that gains the largest majority.

The Parliament then informed the Council that this person is the only candidate that the Parliament would accept. This means that Parliament is actually twisting the intention of the Lisbon Treaty which says that the Council "proposes", the Parliament "agrees".

The Commission President (Juncker) selects commission members, one from each member country, so as to cover all relevant resorts. This takes the form of a long-stretched series of negotiations with the member states. Finally the candidates selected are vetted by Parliament by a hearing in the various Parliament committees.

Europe-wide elections?
The group work was based on a paper called "Ideas/Questions for a My!Europe Declaration" which is part of a relay-system, where results from the Canterbury conference would be used at the next conferences in line – in Bulgaria and in the Netherlands – and serve as inputs to a final conference in Germany (at the Sonnenberg and in Hannover) in November.

One question in the "Ideas/Questions" paper asks, if Europe-wide elections for the European Parliament would make sense – either full or in part (a proposal has been discussed in Parliament to have 20 per cent of MEPs elected in Europe-wide elections).
No, was the answer. "This was not felt to be practical. Turnout is already low in elections for the European Parliament. It would be even lower if people have to vote for persons who they have never heard of".

Today, solely the Commission can initiate new EU legislation. This should be changed. "We felt that legislation could be initiated by the EP or the Commission. We did not feel that any major changes were needed to the judiciary".

There is an ever ongoing discussion as to what responsibilities should be left with the EU, and what should be retained at national level. A suggestion has been made recently - by e.g. the French economist Thomas Piketty - to let national parliaments decide together, in a new kind of inter-parliamentarian body, what they wanted to be EU-matters and what not.

The Charles Harvey group made up a catalogue of EU responsibilities as follows:
- Environment / pollution,
- International transport,
- International communications (telephones, internet etc.),
- Trade negotiations,
- International public health (e.g. epidemics affecting either humans or animals),
- Border patrols where there is such a large influx that the member state cannot cope with it (e.g. in the southern Mediterranean),
- Foreign policy where a joint policy is needed.

"It was felt that matters such a health and education were best left to the member states".    


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