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25th Feb 2024

EP president wants future EU commissioners directly elected

  • MEPs have become more powerful under the Lisbon Treaty (Photo: European Parliament)

European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek has said EU commissioners should in future be directly elected rather than hand-picked by national governments.

Speaking on Monday (22 March) at the Humboldt University in Berlin, a venue where politicians like to air new ideas, Mr Buzek said it is time for a "parliamentarisation" of the commission.

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Member states should be persuaded to "increasingly put their candidates for a seat in the commission on the European election lists, where they could occupy first place."

This would make the commissioners "visible" for EU citizens and give them a "democratic mandate."

"This would not just be of symbolic importance. The commission would have stronger democratic legitimacy and would be strengthened as an institution," said Mr Buzek.

At the moment, each member state nominates one candidate to be their EU commissioner.

The process is a tangle of behind-the-scenes negotiating as each national capital tries to get the weightiest portfolio while not always having the purest EU community motives for sending their nominee to Brussels.

In the most recent round, Berlin was widely reported as proposing Guenther Oettinger, now in charge of energy, to be its commissioner in order to remove him from the domestic political scene.

Speaking more generally about the effects of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's new legal framework in place since 1 December last year, Mr Buzek said member states are still learning to accept the new balance of power:

"It is clear that for some politicians, also for those in leading positions, the consequences of the Lisbon Treaty are a big surprise."

Member states are only now beginning to understand what they have actually agreed to with the ratification of the treaty, said the EP chief.

The treaty greatly extends the legislative powers of the European Parliament, giving MEPs co-decision rights in virtually all areas of EU law-making.

This has shifted the dynamics of power within the Brussels. Currently this is noticeable in the heated debate on setting up a new diplomatic service, where MEPs are determined to sit at the negotiating table, but also in areas such as trade where deputies have raised question marks about key EU bilateral trade agreements.

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