Stanley's blog

The impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the appointment of the 2009-2014 European Commission may not be widely realised.

The President will be proposed by the European Council, after consultation and acting by a qualified majority, taking into account the elections to the European Parliament. He/she has to be appointed by an absolute majority of MEPs. If the proposed president is rejected, the procedure is repeated with a new candidate.

The role of Parliament is therefore crucial. The provision “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament” has so far been interpretated as meaning that he/she must come from the largest political group. But it might also be argued that, were two other parties, together having more seats than the leading group, to jointly support a candidate, that candidate should be given precedence.

The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, then adopts the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as Commissioners. They are selected, based on the suggestions made by Member States. Parliament has to give its consent to the new college.

This procedure has not changed but two factors have: the new method of appointing the Commission President will give him greater legitimacy; and Parliament’s power continues to increase.

Parliament will conduct hearings of each Commissioner but is only entitled to vote against the Commission as a whole, but not against individual Commissioners. However, it can effectively remove one individual by indicating that, unless he is withdrawn, the vote will be negative. This happened in 2004 in the case of the Italian nominee, Rocco Buttiglione.

Parliament may well consider taking this a stage further and seek influence over the appointment of the candidates.

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