Monday

25th Mar 2019

Opinion

Separation of powers instead of 'Spitzenkandidat' process

  • Jean-Claude Juncer's 'political' interventions - such as over French debt, or Polish rule-of-law or Macedonian accession - mean the Commission president should not be selected by the 'political' Spitzenkandidat process (Photo: European Commission)

With less than a year to go until the European elections, political groups are about to nominate their so-called Spitzenkandidat, or 'lead candidate'.

They want to make it a habit that the Spitzenkandidat of the largest political group becomes the president of the European Commission.

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As a result, because the commission will be led by a political candidate, it instantly becomes more political. But is that the desired effect?

Let's look at what has happened in recent years.

France vs Poland

The European Commission calls itself a political commission. As a result, when France violated the fiscal rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, does not stand up as an independent guardian of the treaties but gives them leeway because "France is France".

This statement, being on behalf of the commission and therefore also of the European Union, does not contribute to but instead damages public support for the European Union.

The commission runs the risk of creating the impression that the appeal to Poland is also being made for political reasons.

Even if the commission now waives further steps against Poland, it leads us to suspect it's doing so for political reasons.

Some media now claim that there are noises in the commission that regard the unity of the European Union as more important than addressing Poland's violations of the rule of law.

That would also be a political choice.

Albania and Macedonia

Look at the recent discussion about opening accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.

Based on the commission's assessment of the criteria, it is believed that these can be opened. An assessment the Dutch government and parliament do not just blindly accept.

What is also unheard of, is a president of the European Commission who, in de midst of his annual State of the European Union speech, starts ventilating his own views and a European Parliament allowing him to do so.

If a prime minister would propagate his private views in the Dutch parliament, the debate would be immediately suspended.

A prime minister speaks on behalf of the cabinet or he does not speak at all.

The danger is that, if this continues, the good work of the commission is also at stake. Such as tackling and fining large companies that abuse their market position at the expense of the consumer.

Therefore, let us stop the phenomenon of the Spitzenkandidat and transfer the tasks of the commission with regard to the enforcement of rules and treaties to an independent supervisor.

This will contribute to a greater credibility of the European Commission and the European Union and thus to greater public support. According to the treaty, the Council nominates a candidate and the European Parliament only has approval right.

Let's keep it that way.

Anne Mulder is a member of parliament in the Netherlands, and spokesman of European affairs for the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)

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Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

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It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

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