FEPS Fresh Thinking

Two days after the European elections the European parliamentarians took the initiative. The leaders of the groups in the European Parliament met and agreed to propose Jean-Claude Juncker as candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.

The European Council, convoked by its president Hermann van Rompuy for yesterday night, was stunned by this quick action from the Parliament. The long discussion in the Council and the statement after by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel reflects the way in which the heads of governments still behave.

The Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the Council proposes to the Parliament a candidate for the Presidency of the Commission on the basis of the results of the European elections. Of course, it would have been more “literally” in line with the Lisbon-treaty if the first reaction after the last Sunday elections had come from the Council. But it took a serious effort from the European Parliament to take the initiative and to put a serious proposal on the table.

This proposal reflects the reality of the results. Jean Claude Juncker was the leading candidate of the EPP (European People’s Party). The EPP came out as the strongest group. The second largest group is the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and they endorsed and accepted the proposal of Juncker. So he has a huge majority in the Parliament. This is the way respecting the European voters’ will. It is also obvious that the backing of Juncker by the Parliament is in line with the “grand coalition” between EPP and S&D and hence there will and have to be a prominent place for Martin Schulz in the new EU Commission. The results gave a majority to the “MartinJuncker-Commission”!

It is irrational that the conservative leaders amongst the heads of state are now blocking their own leading candidate for the elections. When the progressive leaders in the EU Council supported the EU-parliament proposal, this was an act of respect to the will of the European voters. It was the French president François Hollande who set the tone in expressing the willingness of the progressives to support the conservative candidate Juncker!

Angela Merkel, and in particular the British Prime Minister David Cameron, have harmed European democracy in not taking the results of the European elections seriously. This is precisely the fear expressed in my last blog. European democracy will and can only improve when the respect towards the citizens is there.

But running a campaign, nominating a leading candidate, stipulating that this person is then to be proposed according to the results and according to the majority in the European Parliament and then in a “usual” backdoor-deal scenario, screwing up the whole process is exactly what Europe does not need. Let us hope that the Parliament will stay united and strong from now on.

However, the Tuesday meetings showed that Europe is on the way to becoming more transparent and open. It is now clear that the conservative heads of state would not like to diminish their “power”. The questions surrounding the LisbonTreaty do not pertain to juridical interpretation: it is now a pure question of power, of who has a say in the European institution. The Parliament has shown yesterday that it respects results and the wishes of European citizens.

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