European Parliamentary party
nominations for President
4.93. A number of our witnesses thought it likely
that the obligation on the European Council to take into account
the elections to the European Parliament would result in European
Parliamentary parties going to the next European Parliamentary
elections in 2009 not only with lists of Parliamentary candidates
and programmes, but with proposed Commission Presidency nominees.
John Palmer felt that this would be "of very considerable
importance because in the European Council it will allow Presidents
of the Commission to point to a direct mandate" (Q S28).
He considered that this would strengthen the democratic legitimacy
of the Commission President (p S15).
4.94. Brendan Donnelly felt that this development
might strengthen the democratically legitimising capacity of the
European Parliament, providing an obvious political consequence
of European Parliamentary elections. "If the President of
the European Commission were demonstrably a candidate issuing
from and supported by the current majority in the European Parliament,
then this would fundamentally change the relationship between
Commission and Parliament, making it more like that between national
parliaments and national governments. It would also change the
nature of European Elections, giving to electors a sense of personal
choice and involvement in European decision-making" (p S133).
4.95. Professor Peers considered this development
"wholly appropriate on democratic grounds". The public
would "know who they were 'voting for' as Commission President",
and "it would be unreasonable for EU leaders to refuse to
nominate someone whose sponsoring party had won more seats in
the EP than any other party" (p S153).
4.96. Federal Union told us that such nominations
would "give the President of the Commission the same kind
of legitimacy as that enjoyed by the prime minister of a Member
State", and that the alternative was the selection of a President
"as a result of opaque and distant negotiations behind closed
doors", which was not the way that positions of political
importance should be determined (p S143). Jo Leinen MEP agreed
that "[f]rom 2009 onwards the President of the European Commission
should not be found after the elections behind closed doors in
the European Council, it should be an open process before the
elections" (Q S340).
4.97. The European Parliament's election of the
Commission President, combined with the need for a vote of confidence
by the Parliament for the entire College, would, in the eyes of
the European Parliamentary Labour Party, "make it clear that
the Commission is not a bunch of unelected bureaucrats, but is
a politically accountable executive dependent on the confidence
of the elected Parliament" (p S140). The Coalition for
the Reform Treaty and Business for New Europe also supported the
move, which in their opinion made the Commission more democratically
accountable (p S130; p S122).
4.98. The Commission told us that the requirement
to take into account the elections was "quite significant"
and that "it is correct that there is a debate about who
should lead the Commission following direct elections to the European
Parliament" (Q S315). Neil O'Brien felt that the European
Parliament was gaining a significant power in electing the Commission
President, and "in the future Commission Presidents are more
likely to have a strongly integrationist bent in line with the
general opinion of the European Parliament" (Q S81).
4.99. Lord Brittan of Spennithorne told us that
"'taking into account' does not mean the same as 'following'".
According to him, "what it will mean is that it would be
difficult for Member States to come up with a proposed president
who was known to be violently contradictory to and opposed to
the weight of opinion in the European Parliament
I do not
think it is going to make as much difference as all that"
(Q S351). He thought that "'take account of' gives the
flexibility but at the same time a nod in the direction, in effect
saying it has to be acceptable to the Parliament, which is about
right" (Q S363).
4.100. Questions remain regarding party nominations
for Commission President. Will the elected President feel beholden
to the political party or group which put his or her name forward?
Will the President always be a candidate of the majority party
or group? Could the Council refuse to nominate someone sponsored
by the party commanding the majority in the Parliament? Experience