Is “Emperor Barroso” naked?

Without the support of the European citizenry, the President of the European Commission lacks the legitimacy necessary to make the European project credible.

, by Joan Marc Simon

All the versions of this article: [English] [français] [italiano]

Is “Emperor Barroso” naked?

The President of the European Commission is today nominated by the European Council to lead what is likely to one day become the executive branch of the European Union. Still, such an important position is far removed from citizens. They don’t see what is the role of this President who they have not elected, whose political program is not put to a vote and who goes around the world representing the EU.

Like in the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” European citizens are told to believe that the President of the European Commission wears European clothes when, in fact, he might well be naked from a point of view of legitimacy and purpose.

The highest times for European Democracy are the European Parliament elections and, as we have seen, the turnout continues to decrease every 5 years. It is a fact that EU citizens do not see the relationship between their vote and what happens at the European level. Yet, the European Parliament continues to gain more and more power, treaty after treaty.

Having the visible head of the EU appointed without having to present a platform to the voters is one of the major problems when selling the importance of participation in European Parliament elections to the citizenry. Currently, Europeans can neither know what program the winning political party will implement, nor who will be responsible for implementing it.

It is thus necessary to build this link between the vote and its political meaning. At the moment, voting in the European elections is more a vote for the European project as such than a vote expressing what kind of Europe the citizens want. The European Parliament elections were a success in the 80s, but if the European project wants to continue to have legitimacy and crediblity in the eyes of Europeans, we need to move forward with the democratization of the EU. In other words, citizens should have the right to express their opinion not only on whether they want more Europe or less, but also on what kind of Europe they want and who should lead the European project.

This can be achieved by linking the results of the European Parliament elections to the election of the President of the European Commission. The Lisbon Treaty already observes this option: the President of the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament on a proposal of the European Council, “taking into account the elections of the European Parliament”.

The Union of European Federalists – UEF - together with its partner organizations, has launched the campaign asking the political parties to nominate their candidate for the presidency of the European Commission. The candidates should be known before the elections and should present the program of their party to all European citizens. The majority of the newly elected European Parliament would then elect the new President of the European Commission, linking even more the work of both institutions and enhancing the accountability and legitimacy of the President of the Commission.

If the President of the European Commission and his/her political program is linked to the European Parliament elections we can have, for the first time ever, a truly European debate in the national campaigns. This is badly needed for the European democracy if we want to increase the turnout in the European elections.

Without true legitimacy that originates from the voices of citizens expressed in the European Parliament elections, the President of the European Commission will be weak in front of the future Permanent President of the European Council. Consequently, EU citizens are the only ones who, with their vote in the European Parliament elections, can sew the suit of a President of the Commission.

Should we miss this opportunity and continue to allow our “naked emperor” to wander around Europe and the world without the necessary legitimacy, by the time someone realizes that the emperor is naked it may well be too late for European democracy.

Sign !

Your comments

  • On 22 November 2008 at 06:16, by Valéry-Xavier Lentz Replying to: Is “Emperor Barroso” naked?

    There is some talk these days about choosing to appoint Mr. Barroso for five more years without a debate and without waiting for the European citizens to vote.

    Considering the poor job he did as head of the European Commission, this would be a rather bad move.

    Anyhow there should be a debate rather than a decision taken six months before the voters choose their MEPs.

    Support eh campaign “Anyone but Barroso” : for a start, join the Facebook groupe and invite your friends ther !

  • On 7 April 2009 at 22:26, by Jon Viklund Replying to: Emperor is taking initiative at least

    I think it is fair play, he is running openly and at least speaking about his own campaign, taking initiative. Look very clear message, I think. I was wondering already some while, why European politicians have not made any big moves in using web as a stronghold for campaigning. I mean, all that talk about Obama’s campaign, but no initiatives on this side of the sea. Anyway, Barroso’s web site can not be really compared to Obama’s webmachine (of course). Anyway, I think it is a good initiative, maybe will open door for many similar projects.

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