Stanley's blog

There is a strong body of opinion which advocates politicising the Commission and the election of its President, and that only by reproducing at EU level the kind of political society that exists at national level, will our citizens become interested.

I question this thesis. It is true that this change would lead to more media coverage and interest in ‘Brussels’, but will it be of the EU or will it replicate national political societies which are out of touch, and unpopular, with their electorates.

The EU institutional structure is unique. Arguably, the Commission should not be a political body but an effective technocratic one. Its priorities and pronouncements should be dictated by what is good for Europe, and not what will influence the re-appointment of its president.

By politicising the Commission, short termism will take over, as it has in the Member States.

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  1. It is simply not enough to provide information, advocators/politicians need to advocate and highlight certain bits of that information, that is, and always will be, their central and essential job.

    I have noted in another comment on one of your posts that the EU needs advocators to bring in the necessary populism in politics. I asked you how we could do that and you didn’t know either how to do this, the only solution that keeps on popping up is political leadership… I do not believe in such thing if it is nationally motivated. A few events ago Jean-Luc Dehaene spoke at an EPC event where he said we need more political leadership and national leaders shouldn’t blame the EU for necessary policies. However, Dehaene at his time as prime-minister was the principle advocator of that standpoint saying we needed to cut budget for the Maastricht-criteria.

    Politics is not the realm of idealism. It is dominated by rational choice theory. We need to motivate certain powerful identifiable actors within the EU atmosphere to advocate EU interests. The Commission is one path to go, the council is another (and for me the preferred).

    If we do not further politicise and democratise the EU, the project will collapse under it’s own weight build upon air for there are too few people supporting it.

  2. I’m also concerned by a politicisation of the Commission, but I doubt it would be feasible or useful with direct elections from European citizens.

    An alternative would be for Countries to nominate 2-4 candidates and the EP votes as a whole to nominate the candidates and the president of the commission and leave the role of allocating portfolio to the president of the commission with co-decision of the Council and the EP.

    In this manner, it would provide the EP with a quasi-governing body of ‘élus’, which the EP is lacking to justify its legitimacy as a transnational parliament.

  3. And we don’t have short termism in the Commission as it is? Plus how are we supposed to achieve any sort of democratic legitimacy for the EU’s executive. Plus you write as if the Commission is not politicised currently which is complete rubbish – the appointments are political, just in a way that is incomprehensible and opaque to the citizens.

    The EU is beyond the stage where its Executive can just be technocratic.

  4. The Commission is a weird mix of short-termism and long-term vision.

    Of course there’s a short-term, highly political stream running through everything, from appointments to Presidency priorities. But there are also long-term goals which most subscribe to. They are usually subserviant to the exigencies of the day, but they are always there, pushing, and so steering the long term direction.

    Think of a bunch of people hopping randomly. They won’t go anywhere in the long term. Now put them on the side of a hill… OK, lousy metaphor (up is better than down), but you get the idea in principle.

    My experience is, however, limited mainly to certain DGs, such as the research DGs, where long-term goals like the European Research Areas are less easily thrown off course by “events, dear boy, events”.

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