Schuman Project  



The European Commission  # 4

How NOT to elect the Commission

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How should Europeans elect the European Commission? Who should be the leader? Shouldn't all Europeans be involved in the election?

This is one of the most important questions for 500 million European citizens. Why is it so little discussed? The European Commission is the most important body for the political, economic and social future of the European Union. The President of the Commission is the key position in the world's most important commercial power, the European Union. 

The Americans make a huge razzmatazz about electing their President. In one sense, the Commission President is the European equivalent of the President of the United States of America. In actual fact it is far more important. Why? Well the European Union is a larger economic power than the United States. It is the world's economic super-power. The USA is in full financial, political and military crisis. The dollar and the US economy have slumped,  cankered by banking frauds and external debts. The Euro is constrained by statute from such reckless overspending.

As the USA is learning painfully, economic power is probably more important than military power. Military action and war, as well as burning billions of federal funds, can have the opposite policy effect from what was planned. Afghanistan and Iraq are still ablaze with intractable violence and festering with  corruption. Instead of pacifying a situation once dominated by a dictator or an area where a terrorist was resident, unwise armed action has bred a plague of copycat terrorism and anti-Americanism. 

What is even more important than both military and economic power is moral power. In the global society of today, respect and acquiescence to a nation's values requires a leader with sterling character and a person who can communicate by word and action that he or she is leading in the right direction. A State can be as small as Switzerland and have a great affect on world politics. A group of nations acting in moral unison is exponentially more influential. 

That is why potentially the European leader can be far more important than the leader of any single country. If Europe has such a policy option for the world, isn't the election of a European President of enormous importance for the planet?  The Commission President must work inside a system where impartiality, independence and moral character are required to bring together some thirty countries with different traditions and histories. That requires someone who will listen, someone who is humble and not a rabble-rouser. 

The choice

Should the choice of President be put to a popular vote? Doesn't this seem the fairest system? But consider if all 500 million people voted for this person, it is likely to have quite unforeseen results. Obviously with thirty odd countries, there is little chance of electing a candidate from one's own country. Most nationalists would be disappointed, even frustrated. 

So who would be elected? Probably the most handsome or the most beautiful candidate! The people most well known across Europe are maybe footballers or film stars. There is no indication that either profession has adequate background to deal with the complexity of 27 or more States, multiple languages and complex issues such as Climate Change and the Energy and financial crises! 

This is not to denigrate the voters in the USA, but a photogenic appearance is often deemed important given the preponderance of video communications, TV,  Internet and speechwriters. Honest Abe Lincoln, known for his character but not his Hollywood looks,  would have little chance today! People would say he looked suspect!

But isn't communication important too? Clearly. Let us assume we have a good-looking candidate that has mastered most of the European languages, would this be an ideal candidate? No. In fact it could be highly dangerous. An orator, perhaps with little government experience, who hypnotizes the electorate with emotive words like change, transparency and hope, but little substance, could lead the population fast in a wrong direction. We should be very cautious about silver-tongued orators without understanding, adequate experience or character.

What about a good-looking orator who has what appears good linguistic and communication skills and a powerful agenda about how to solve Europe's problems?  It may be someone with their own wealth and therefore, many may think, a person of complete independence.

This is extra dangerous. Because someone has money does not mean that they do not want more! Just speak to the guys who got burnt in crisis of Wall Street and the City of London! Bonuses of millions were not enough for them. The big danger of people who come with ready solutions is that they may be well paid by a special interest group, a cartel or foreign money. Top politicians often work for such groups. The president-candidate could be a front person to make sure that a company or group got special treatment. The ready, and apparently plausible solution that they bring may have originated from the same biased or foreign source bent on domination.  The gloss of presentation and silver oratory may be all public relations. The more silver the tongue may indicate the more dangerous the trap.

What is needed is someone who is impartial and will listen to all the minority groups that are affected by any European legislation. And by listening, that means taking them seriously, as the livelihood of poor people may be seriously affected. That's why humility is a requirement.

So wouldn't it be best if experienced politicians took the leadership of the Commission?

The political solution.

The Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty proposed that the Commission should become a purely political post. Only politicians should be eligible. Each party would choose a candidate for the Commission President. Then all the European parties of that group would agitate for a European Parliament full of elected representatives who would support that candidate. Such a candidate-president would be a person of eminence, experience and renown such as a former prime minister. That is somewhat like a classical parliament -- if the European Parliament were like such a parliament. Unfortunately it isn't. It has different functions. And such an idea goes against the founding philosophy of the European community. 

Would this system work? The following is what an MEP who is a leading member of the EP's constitutional committee reported recently. Politicians want the Lisbon Treaty system put in place soon so politicians can benefit from extra seats in Parliament in the elections of mid 2009. They even produced postcards to encourage their parties to select a party political candidate for Commission President. Without success. All the party activists had already tried hard to encourage eminent politicians to put their names forward for such a post. This applied to parties on the right to parties on the left including all colours in-between. So far they had not got a single candidate, except the present incumbent. 

Isn't that extraordinary? Why would politicians refuse to be a candidate for the most interesting political job in the Europe? Well, the answer is quite simple for anyone who reflects. If the incumbent was going to re-affirm his desire for another term, the first assessment is to work out the chances of beating someone already in office. 

The second problem for the other parties is to find a candidate among the small group of well-known politicians, such as former prime ministers or ministers. This is no easy task. Many are ex-prime ministers or ex-ministers precisely because they were suspected of corruption. They would not get past the  examination and publicity of opposing politicians in the EP. These come from all the parties and from twenty-odd other countries. The media of all countries would submit the candidate's record to close scrutiny, especially about the candidate's fairness relative  to other countries and other interests. Any prime minister who had unfairly pushed a policy against a neighbour would stand no chance of accumulating votes there.

What about the honest former prime ministers or ministers? The candidates are apparently very hard to find, according to the report of this MEP. Many have already got comfortable well-paid jobs. For jobs as consultants or directors, they did not have to undergo an intensive examination of their character and honesty in the European Parliament as they would have to if they were elected. 

And it is clear that if there were half a dozen candidates for the Commission President from all the main party groupings, then five of them would fail. Which former, honest prime minister would want to put him- or herself through the indignity of losing this election? It would be likely to put a distinct black mark on a good reputation at the end of someone's active life.


In the past politicians in the European Council chose one amongst their chums because they applied the law of Buggin's turn. Each major party was allowed to put a candidate forward because the unwritten law was that the other parties would put their candidate forward at a later occasion. This is about as ethically sound as having a thin candidate follow a fat one. It is political fixing and as honest as fixing a football match in favour of one team. 

This political fixing would, of course, be illegal for any other public appointment. For any job in the civil service of the EU paid out of European public money, that is by the taxpayers, a list of the requirements for office is required. For example, the lowest official position, let us say that of a the cleaner in the Commission's buildings has to show that he or she can clean toilets. The position then has to be published with the physical and linguistic skills required. The Presidency of the Commission is no ordinary job. For one, it is rather well paid. But the salary comes from the same public funds as the cleaner. 

The European Council as the responsible body for selection ought to publish the requirements for the job. It should create a list of candidates. And it should publish the criteria for selection. 

The present method of political fixing behind closed doors is against all equal opportunity legislation. It is against Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Any European institution that did this could be taken to Court. So far the European Council has not been taken to Court for this illegality. No one, apparently has complained yet. It is such an audacious and impudent act. And it is committed by heads of government! But it is only a matter of time before it is exposed in public and in Court. That is a distinct possibility for the future, possibly the next appointment. There have been sufficient complaints, scorn and derision about the past political fixing. 

That danger of scandal is possibly the only reason why the politicians (read: prime ministers meeting in the European Council) have decided to modify the procedure. 

The present system is ILLEGAL. The alternative of the Lisbon Treaty won't work and is even more illegal. What should be done?





What is the Commission for?

is it to represent political parties or government systems?

a way to ease out unwanted political colleagues?

to provide a healthy pension at the end of a career?

to act as a representative for industrial lobbies?

to protect the workers by close ties to unions?

to introduce reform that is in a party political programme but can't be introduced in the national parliament?

to make contacts with European industry so that a politician can get an even fatter job by resigning early?

to provide a speaker with European credentials to rally votes at national elections?

to provide a training ground for a future lobbyist and wheeler-dealer?

to manipulate European money that cannot be got at a national level for the party?

to make sure that money goes to a local favoured region?

to create 'research' and work projects for  special interests?

to build the army of contractors to eliminate an independent civil service?

to stop other nations complaining about the member's State?

to block anti-corruption investigations at a European level?

to make sure that favoured cartels and interests are not investigated?

to provide other jobs for the party 'boys and girls' by 'parachuting' them in as advisers and contractors?

to be the long-arm of the government back home?

to work with party buddies in the European Parliament to execute plans cooked up in secret?




The Commission is there to:   a) propose European legislation of common interest    b) execute democratically agreed policy;   c) act as guardian of the Treaties.