European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today presented proposals on how to improve the functioning of the European Parliament elections and make the EU more efficient. President Juncker said that his dream was a bicameral system with the Parliament as one house and the member states as the other, with a directly elected President. However, he also said this wouldn’t happen before 2019 and warned that “now is not the time for long discussions of institutional reform or Treaty change.”
Upcoming fight over the Spitzenkandidaten system
For now, the Commission is pledging to stick behind the Spitzenkandidaten system. The process lets European parties nominate their own candidates for Commission President, and the party that gets the most seats in the elections (in 2014, the EPP) gets the Presidency of the Commission.
One of the recommendations of the European Commission is not only to retain the Spitzenkandidaten system, but to strengthen it. Juncker puts forward various proposals, such as requiring national broadcasters to stream election debates, having a longer campaign period, and potentially introducing primaries to choose the candidates for Commission President.
The system is intended to link the results of the elections to the next Commission, and the European Parliament voted in favour of retaining the system last week, but many national leaders dislike the system. An EU leaders summit is being held on the matter next week.
The Commission also recommends for the link between national parties and European parties to be made more visible, for example by national parties using the logos of the European parties they are affiliated to in their campaigning material.
Juncker also touched upon the idea of transnational lists, noting that they could strengthen the European dimension of the elections, and is “sympathetic” to the idea, but points out that introducing them would require unanimity among member states and changes to the electoral law in all member states.
Proposed merger of European Commission and European Council presidencies
In Juncker’s State of the Union Address last year, he put forward the idea of merging the European Council and European Commission presidencies into one role, arguing that it would give the EU “one captain” and would reduce the complexity of the EU, but this faces opposition from many member states.
Though not explicitly provided for in the Treaties, the merger is still theoretically possible as the European Council President is only barred from taking on national offices, not European ones. This role would be the one “directly elected” by European citizens.
President Juncker also commented on a speech made today by Boris Johnson, accusing Juncker of wanting a superstate, but he reiterated that he was “strictly against a European superstate and always have been. I do not understand why some people insist on saying otherwise.”
Reduction in size of the European Commission?
As suggested by Macron, a reduction in the size of the European Commission is also being explored. At present, all 28 member states get their own Commissioner, but it has been suggested by some that member states should take turns to have Commissioners.
The European Commission notes that a smaller executive may well be more efficient and easier to manage, but it also warns that some member states would not be represented at the political level of the EU executive and would lose the advantage of maintaining a direct political communication channel with the Commission.