Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


The Commission as European Government

Fischer's proposals offer two possible ways of forming a European government. It should either develop out of the European Council, and consequently be formed by the national governments; or, on the basis of the existing commission structure, a President with far-reaching executive powers should be directly elected. Both options have serious disadvantages. The first option favours a return to nationalization with an intergovernmental model of EU governance, in which national governments play a crucial role in both preparing, formulating, and implementing European policies. Beyond this, given the work load of the national experts, it is questionable if and to what extent they would be able to manage the work in the EU. The second option evades these problems, but it is not realistic. The direct election of a Commission President requires both a developed European party system and the corresponding competition between parties that are actively engaged throughout Europe. Yet neither of these prerequisites is in view. These are also valid reasons not to appoint the Commission President from the centre of the European Parliament.

Against this background, everything speaks in favour of maintaining the existing practices of appointment and political control in the Commission, which incorporate both the Council and the Parliament. In line with this, the members of the Commission (including the Commission President) will continue to be appointed by the European Council. The Parliament has to confirm the Council decisions. Moreover, referring to the already existing procedure for a vote of no confidence, it can demand the dissolution of the Commission by absolute majority.

The question of the structure of the executive branch is considerably more urgent than the regulation and appointment issues. And Fischer's views do not entail any concrete proposals about this. Gerhard Schröder's proposal does not appear to be particularly sensible either; he has suggested that every member state be represented by a Commissioner. Yet a European government consisting of 30 Commissioners, with their respective General Directorates, would unnecessarily inflate the European bureaucracy. There are other ways to create a lean and efficient and democratically composed European executive branch in an expanded European Union. The playing field for national representation can be expanded if, besides the maximal 20 Commissioners, the respective General Directors are also included in the political positions that are to be allocated. Because the EU will be enlarged one step at a time, it would be possible to gradually switch to politically-appointed General Directors.



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