Saturday

16th Feb 2019

EUobserved

The European Parliament's institutional coup

Member state leaders have been backed into a corner. They have, as it were, been overtaken by the campaign bus; or outspoken at the TV debate. Yes, the European Parliament is in the process of staging a rather successful coup.

It has talked itself, and the rest of us, into a process that is not actually written in the treaty. That is that each political party puts forward a candidate to be commission president. And that person should become head of the EU executive if their political family win the most votes in the 22-25 May election.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • In the game of presidencies, the EP is playing a master hand (Photo: European Parliament / Pietro Naj-Oleari)

Member states initially did their best to ignore the parliament (it’s a long-held reflex, so it was not that hard). Berlin tried to kill the idea by dismissively calling the contenders Spitzenkandidaten, meaning someone who tops an electoral list and no. more. than. that.

This did not have the effect Chancellor Angela Merkel intended. In fact, it just meant that all those not previously acquainted with the word added it to their lexicon. Spitzenkandidat (which doesn't roll easily off the tongue for non-German speakers) has now become a byword, in the small looking glass that is Brussels, for someone running to be commission president.

But that is an aside.

The greater question is how the EP managed to do it. It's rather like what it did with the global anti-counterfeit treaty (ACTA). It shouted a lot from the sidelines saying "we're going to vote it down", "we're going to vote it down". By the time others got around to taking it seriously, it was past the point of no return.

For the commission presidency it has been much the same process. While some EU leaders peered into the treaty and saw only that they must take the result of the elections "into account" when choosing the person for the job, MEPs saw Article 17 bis.

And they set about making turning this expansive interpretation into a reality (the institution that wants more power is always going to be more active and creative than the institution opting for the status quo).

That is where the campaign bus - (courtesy of centre-right candidate Jean-Claude Juncker) - and debates come in. They create facts on the ground. If the candidates run around Europe telling people that they are actual contenders, and participating in political debates on TV (even if they are only webstreamed or shown on lesser-known channels), they create a truth of sorts.

And from a rather wobbly can't-distinguish-one-from-the-other they are gradually emerging with policies and debating styles. And they are naturally keen to stress the democratic nature of it all.

There more than a point or two of discussion on whether voters are aware of this 'democracy' and indeed whether they consider the EU institutions at all when casting their 'second order' 'punish-the-home-government' vote.

But the upshot of it is that EU leaders- after paying so much lipservice on the need for the EU to be democratically legitimate - will be hard put not to choose one of these candidates.

Nevertheless, a huge tussle is to be expected. And it will start directly after the results of the vote come in. Until now though, the EP has been better at this presidential chess game than the European Council.

EUobserved

Beloved Ashton

It looked like it would be another humdrum year for Catherine Ashton. Then Iran happened.

EUobserved

When Barroso dared to take on Berlin

Barroso gave up any hope for a third term as EU commission chief this week, while daring to challenge Berlin on economic policy.

EUobserved

On being 'Obama-ed'

Well, he finally made it to the EU capital. There was much anticipation. And quite considerable upheaval.

EUobserved

After the EP vote – working the camembert

Righteous declarations, posturing, a measured amount of fence-sitting and a hefty dose of speculation is to be expected after the EP results come in.

EUobserved

Institutional fisticuffs

MEPs spent months and months carefully constructing a house of cards. EU leaders just blew the whole thing down with one dismissive puff.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us