5th Dec 2021

German vice chancellor questions commission monopoly on EU law

  • Some MEPs are jealous about the commission's monopoly on proposing laws (Photo: European Commission)

The European Parliament should have greater rights to propose EU legislation, Germany's vice-chancellor Franz Muntefering has said in proposals going beyond the EU constitution promoted by Berlin.

"We should be asking ourselves the question who decides what is on the agenda in Europe. Only the [European] Commission? Something should change in this respect. More possibilities for political initiatives by the European Parliament would be good," Mr Muntefering, the second-highest member of the German government, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung over the weekend.

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Mr Muntefering was referring to the commission's near-monopoly on initiating new EU laws, a principle which is enshrined in the current EU treaty with the aim of safeguarding the coherence of lawmaking in the multi-layered EU.

But the system is seen by some critics as undemocratic and causes frustration among MEPs who view the commission's monopoly with jealousy.

The draft EU constitution leaves most of the commission's monopoly of initiative intact, despite introducing a "citizens' initiative" whereby at least 1 million EU citizens can ask the commission to legislate in a certain area.

The EU constitution is strongly supported by the German EU presidency - but Mr Muntefering in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung interview called for reforms which go beyond what is proposed in the charter.

He also suggested that European elections should have a bigger influence on who should become European Commission president.

"Imagine that there were national elections in Germany, and this would not be about the eventual appointment of the chancellor. What would this mean for the turnout?", said Mr Muntefering.

Asked whether this means he supports the election of the commission president by the European Parliament, he said "at least we should think further whether the current system can remain so anonymous and indirect."

The criticism about the way the commission president is currently appointed - in opaque negotiations between EU capitals - echoes earlier proposals by French presidential hopeful and interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

But it is not reflected in the disputed EU constitution which does little to change the current procedure.

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