Saturday

25th Feb 2017

Barroso admits legitimacy problem for commission president post

  • Mr Barroso, formerly Portuguese PM, has been commission president since 2004 (Photo: Portuguese EU presidency 2007)

European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has said that the European elections, regularly marked by voter apathy and low turnout, create a legitimacy problem for his post.

"I really believe we have a problem there," said Mr Barroso responding to a question about whether European citizens should have the power to directly elect the person to fill his post.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He added that: "From a formal point of view, its a perfect system" but admitted that in practice it is different.

Under rules of the new EU treaty the president of the commission has to be chosen in light of the result of the European elections, meaning the post goes to a person of the political grouping that wins the most seats in the European Parliament.

Mr Barroso, who pointed to the fact that the French prime minister was chosen by the French president or that former British prime minister Tony Blair was an MP before being chosen to become leader, said that although the "commission has the same legitimacy as prime ministers (...) in practice this is not the case."

"The question is of substantive legitimacy," he said, while speaking at a dinner organised by the Centre for European Policy Studies on Wednesday (27 February).

Elections to the 785-seat EU assembly take place every five years. Despite attempts to create pan-European debate, fostered by the creation of European political parties and lately proposals to set up political foundations at the European level, the elections remain national affairs, often with local or domestic issues coming into play.

Analysts says that if citizens were casting their vote to choose from a list of candidate for the job of commission president then turnout would likely be much higher - in the last round of elections in 2004 turnout was around 30 percent in some member states.

Mr Barroso noted that there is "no European political space" adding that this would "take time" to get away from the current 28 political systems at play - those of the 27 member states and the "Brussels beltway."

The twin problems of European elections

While the elusive European political space is unlikely to spring up between now and the June 2009 European elections, an anti-EU treaty platform and the wish of the European Commission president to hold his post for a second time may go some way to fostering some European debate.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations