Sunday

15th Jul 2018

Small EU states do not need full commissioners, Verheugen says

European Commission vice-president Guenter Verheugen has questioned the need for small EU countries to have their own member of the European Commission, as part of far-reaching proposals to reform the EU executive.

Mr Verheugen, Germany's commissioner for industry, suggested on German ZDF television on Wednesday (3 January) small member states could have deputy rather than fully-fledged members of a future revamped EU commission.

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.

... our join as a group

"A small member state would benefit more from providing a deputy commissioner in an important area than from providing a commissioner dealing with a marginal area," he said. "We need an efficient, small and highly competent commission."

The commissioner said he made the proposals as part of a re-emerging debate on a possible revival of the shelved EU constitution, which also seeks to boost the efficiency of the commission by reducing its size.

The constitution however treats small and big member states equally, by introducing a system of equal rotation for a limited number of commission seats – capped at two thirds of EU member countries.

By proposing "deputy" posts for small member states instead, Mr Verheugen is likely to stir anger among these members – like Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Hungary - which had fought hard to get the equal rotation principle in the constitution text.

Elected commission president

Mr Verheugen's apparent readiness to open up some institutional parts of the constitution also points to differences of thinking within the commission itself, with communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom last autumn warning against tinkering "carefully negotiated deals" in the text.

In the ZDF interview, the German commissioner also tabled other proposals for a reformed commission which go beyond what is in the constitution.

Under Mr Verheugen's plans, the president of the commission should be elected by the European Parliament – instead of being picked by national governments – and he or she should thereafter appoint his or her own commissioners (in the constitution this is still a matter for national capitals.)

"I see it as self-evident that the [EU] executive should originate from elections," he stated referring to Europe's democratic traditions.

He said an elected commission chief "must find the right people for the tasks that are there."

"An elected commission president will be intelligent enough to make sure that there is a political and geographic balance," the commissioner added.

Mr Verheugen's designs bear stark resemblance to proposals tabled by French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy last year.

Mr Sarkozy also proposed that the commission president be elected by MEPs, giving him a democratic mandate to pick his own team members.

Brussels divided on future shape of EU commission

The European Commission is showing signs of division on EU institutional reform, with Polish commissioner Danuta Hubner attacking German commissioner Guenter Verheugen's idea that small EU states do not need fully-fledged commissioners.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

Exclusive

How eight MEPs overruled 540 colleagues on office expenses

The EU parliament spends €40m a year on a lump sum for MEPs' expenses with barely any scrutiny. A majority of parliamentarians called for more transparency - but a handful of powerful MEPs mostly dismissed that request.

Investigation

Commission accused of cherry picking job applicants

A pilot project scheme is giving preferential treatment for interns to land highly sought-after jobs at the European Commission - bypassing the lengthy open competition for everyone else seeking the same position.

News in Brief

  1. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  2. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  3. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  4. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato
  5. EU free wifi plan struck by IT error
  6. Europol launches 'World Cup game' to catch criminals
  7. Germany's Gabriel urges tougher dealing with Trump
  8. Eurozone to give Greece last bailout loan in August

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us