It’s not just Obama who confuses the institutions

Only two weeks after the European elections, I have the feeling that most people have turned away from the Brussels process of appointing the next President of the European Commission.

There may be many reasons for this, but I think that at least one of these is that the process is particularly unclear and not only for us Europeans. Even the President of the USA stated last week during his trip to Europe that “I have now been President for five and a half years, and I’ve learned a thing or two about the European Union, the European Commission, the European Council.  Sometimes I get them mixed up.

Are we confused because we don’t know enough about the functioning of the EU or is it also that our national leaders make things more unclear for us? I would say that there are two arguments for the latter.

There is confusion around the name of the next President of the Commission. As mentioned last week, the European Parliament proposed that the Council start negotiations with the EPP candidate Jean-Claude Junker. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly supported the nomination of the EPP candidate she also included Christine Lagarde, Director of the IMF, on the list for President. And yesterday in Stockholm she met with the Prime Ministers of the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands to discuss their opposition to Junker. Who knows whom the Council will propose for President on June 27, if anyone? 

There may also be confusion about what the Council wishes the next President of the Commission to do. Before nominating a candidate, Heads of State have decided to agree first on the EU priorities for the next years. They may request that potential candidates agree to these priorities before being nominated. This could be interpreted as twisting the arm of the future President. In fact, according to the Treaty, the Commission is “required to make proposals on the matters contained in the Treaty, either because the Treaty explicitly provides for it or because the commission considers it necessary” (…) the principle being that the Council takes decisions only “on a proposal from the commission”. So the Council should come second after the Commission. Trying to reverse that order by giving a roadmap to the next President of the Commission could be an infringement on the Commission’s power of initiative as guardian of the Treaties and defender of the general interest.

So it looks like it’s not just President Obama who sometimes gets the EU institutions mixed up, apparently the leaders of the 28 member states also do.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand 

Director of Social Platform