27th May 2019

Double Executive a poor compromise

The debate about the EU's institutional future is accelerating rapidly. It is to be welcomed that in this crucial phase, the Franco-German engine is producing additional drive. The latest proposal which comes out of the meeting between Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac is, however, a weak compromise and risks missing the opportunity for real democratic reform in the EU.

Commission President

This is so much more disappointing since the proposal by France and Germany starts off in the right direction. The agreement to have the president of the European Commission elected by the European Parliament in the future is exactly the right move. This has been a demand of the democratic and progressive forces in the EU for a long time. Just last week (17.01.2003) this demand became the official position of the European Parliament when an absolute majority of 319 MEPs signed a written declaration calling for the Convention to anchor the election of the Commission's president by the European Parliament in the European Constitution.

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This will be a decisive step towards an EU closer to its citizens, because the campaign to elect the Commission president will become the arena for a genuine contest about European issues. European parties are encouraged to field candidates, and Europe's voters will be able to decide on who heads the European executive.

Two presidents

The problem in the Franco-German proposal is, however, that the democratically elected Commission president is put into the dangerous situation of having to compete permanently with the president of the European Council elected by its members. This confuses the issue of who represents the European Union and dangerously disturbs the balance between the three EU institutions Parliament, Commission and Council. Moreover the division of tasks and the lines of responsibility between the two presidents are not clear.

European Foreign Minister

The situations is further complicated because the Franco-German proposal also envisages a European Foreign Minister elected by the European Council. This is confusing because it should be the European Commission as the EU's executive to provide the basis and the legitimacy for the European Foreign minister. The Franco-German paper stresses the need, recognised by all, for a European diplomatic service to build a European diplomacy, but it does not draw the logical conclusion: that the European Commission with its network of representations and expertise in the field would be best suited to provide this service.

Franco-German contribution

Thus, the initiative of President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder comes at the right time, but it needs to be improved. Fortunately Europe has the right instrument to debate and to decide on these important questions in the shape of the Convention. The Franco-German contribution is a welcome and important contribution to the Convention's debate next week about institutional issues.

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JO LEINEN is a German Social Democrat member of the European Parliament. He is the President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF), Brussels and since January 2002 1st Vice-chairman of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs in the European Parliament.


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