To elect a “President of Europe” and have truly European elections involving transnational parties.
First name(s) and family name(s) of the author(s) : Sandro Gozi (Spinelli Group), proposal taken from Europanova’s blog.
Date of the proposal : 16 mars 2011
We need to choose the person who would occupy the office of President of the European Union by means of European elections, inviting all those interested in the job to compete in European elections, thus accentuating the “parliamentarisation” of the European political system.
In the speech he delivered at the Lingotto, Veltroni fittingly relaunched our proposal to elect a “President of Europe”. In Europe there are peoples to “unite in diversity” but we have no European elections or any true “European government”. The reason for this is not so much or only the existence of institutional shortcomings but rather a distinct absence of resolve and political courage in the leaders of the national and European governments and political parties.
Already today it would be possible to couple the European elections more directly to the election of the head of the European executive, to elect a “President of Europe” and have truly European elections involving transnational parties. An attempt to do so was made in 2009, with the European Democratic Party, with Guy Verhofstadt or Mario Monti being proposed as candidates. The obstacle at the time was the skepticism of the PES, which has since apparently changed its stance. In any case, this is the campaign we socialists must undertake in view of the forthcoming 2014 elections which is consistent with the rationale of the PD, namely to break out of the straight-jacket of 20th century politics in Italy and to propose a political and democratic alternative in Europe.
The Treaty of Lisbon actually allows us to elect a “President of Europe” without the need for any further constitutional changes. Let us see how this can be done.
In the first instance, when speaking of a “President of Europe” we have in mind a president with full executive powers. In the European Union, which was not initially based on the principle of the separation of powers but of a mingling of functions, this means having to seek out the executive functions inside the various institutions. In the case of the president we have to take into consideration the European Council and the European Commission: in order to have a “President of Europe” the functions of the “President of the European Council” (currently performed by the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy) and those of the “President of the European Commission” (José Manuel Durao Barroso) would have to be attributed to the same person. Is this possible? Of course it is.
According to the Treaty of Lisbon “the President of the European Council may not have a national mandate”. This therefore establishes an explicit incompatibility between this European office and the holding of national offices. On the other hand, it implicitly allows the office of President of the European Council to be cumulative with that of the President of the European Commission. This formulation is the outcome of a fight “over the adjective” (“national” but not “European”) that, under the presidency of Romano Prodi, we successfully conducted in 2003 during the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe, together with the commissioners Michel Barnier and Antonio Vitorino, as well as with Giuliano Amato, vice-president of the Convention itself at the time. If the two offices were merged it would truly ensure greater coherence, greater democratic control and less fragmentation in the executive action carried on by a true president of the European Union.
At the same time, accentuating the “parliamentarisation” of the European political system, under way for some time now, we need to choose the person who would occupy the office of President of the European Union by means of European elections, inviting all those interested in the job to compete in European elections. Again on the basis of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament must “elect” the President of the Commission: the several European political parties could therefore indicate their own candidate. This would be done on the basis of an agreement (among the political groups and governments) to elect as President of the Commission the candidate of the party or coalition of parties who wins the 2014 European elections. It would actually be very difficult for European heads of state and government meeting in the European Council (who must “take into account” the European elections when designating the President of the Commission) to indicate as President of the Commission and subject to a parliamentary vote a person other than the one legitimized by popular vote (whom they would then have to nominate also as President of the European Council in order to make him a true “President of the European Union”).
However, the issue of the true democratic legitimization of this president remains an open question. It cannot be based on institutional solutions but demands a more robust European political space and real European political parties instead of the weak confederations of national parties as we have in Europe today.
That is why this choice must be accompanied by a change in the electoral system of the European parliament. This change should be directed towards a truly uniform electoral system throughout all states of the Union and aimed at ensuring that a growing percentage of candidates are elected not in national party lists but in transnational European lists that are totally uncoupled from nationality and the territory and based solely on a common vision and political proposal for Europe and a shared candidate for the Presidency. Andrew Duff, a Liberal euro-MP, is working towards a preliminary reform in this direction achieved by adding to the national lists a small number of candidates elected in transnational lists. Not only should this proposal be vigorously supported, it is also necessary to imagine a system that will gradually make it possible to increase the percentage of candidates elected in the transnational lists and reduce those in the national lists.
A double reform of this nature – President of the European Union elected from the transnational lists – would really make it possible to break down the 27 national political, media, and cultural walls that have downgraded the European elections to a sort of litmus test of the (un)popularity of the various ruling governments. And above all, such a reform would starkly reveal to all and sundry the shortcomings and weaknesses of the present “European political parties”, the need to break away from their 20th century divisions and to build up new forces and alliances around the project for Europe and the figure who would carry through this project as “President of Europe”. A face familiar to all Europeans, an idea chosen by Europeans, and an action accountable to European parliaments and citizens in a more democratic Europe.
ÉLECTIONS;réforme des institutions
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