Stanley's blog

What an institutional mess!

The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is causing headaches and disagreement between institutions. These centre on the appointment of the Commission president and the composition of the college and the number of MEPs.

  • The new Commission should take office on 1 November. The European Parliament (EP) elections are between 4 and 7 June. The next European Council (EC) meeting is on 18-19 June. A second Irish referendum is expected in October.

The existing treaty (Nice) requires:

· The Commission president to be appointed by the EC by qualified majority. The nomination has to be approved by the EP.

· The Commission to be less than the number of Member States (currently 27). The Council decides upon the number, acting unanimously.

· The EP to have 736 members.

The Treaty of Lisbon requires:

· The EC, acting by majority voting, to propose to the EP the Commission president, taking into account the EP elections and after carrying out the appropriate consultation. The candidate has to be approved by an absolute majority of MEPs. If rejected, the EC must propose an alternative candidate.

· The Commission to include one member per Member State. From 2014 the number of Commissioners to be two-thirds of the number of Member States. The EC, acting by unanimity, can alter this number.

· The EP to have a maximum of 750 members, plus its president.

Since 1 January 2007 (when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU), there have been 785 MEPs.

The questions to be answered are which treaty applies to:

· the appointment of the next Commission president?

· the appointment of the Commissioners?

· the number of MEPs?

Commission President

The Czech Presidency aims to agree at the June summit on naming the next president under the Nice Treaty. MEPs wish to be involved as if the Lisbon Treaty were in force.

The Presidency wants to take into account the results of the European elections (as per the Lisbon Treaty). But this means that it has to be done within 10 days (between elections and the summit), but Parliament will not have been set up by then. It is said that the only way to resolve this is to delay the nomination of the president.


If the nominations take place under the Nice Treaty, not every Member State can have a Commissioner, but Ireland had been promised that there will continue to be a Commissioner for each Member State. It is being suggested that the present Commission’s mandate be extended for one or two months and then the appointments can be made under the Lisbon Treaty, if there is a positive outcome of the second Irish referendum.

One solution might be to nominate 26 Commissioners under the Nice Treaty – excluding Ireland – and if the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, nominate an Irish Commissioner.

Number of MEPs

736 MEPS will be elected under the Nice Treaty.


There is no easy solution to any of the issues which is legal and does not prevent the Commission from conducting necessary business.


There is no guarantee that the German Constitutional Court will not create ratification difficulties.

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  1. On the EP consultation, there are two options. The first is, as you say, delay the nomination of of the president and the vote in the EP, as this would also avoid having to vote twice for him (once under Nice and the second time under Lisbon). The second option, is to delay the nomination by a week or so, enabling the political groups to meet and elected their new group presidents. Consultation with the EP only makes any sense if it is undertaken with the incoming leadership – especially as there is likely to be some change and possibly new groups – such as the British Conservatives. .

    The generally accepted idea, at the moment, for the college, is to wait for the Irish before starting the nomination of individual commissioners. Your proposal would lead to excluding the Irish from having a commissioner if they vote NO – which though tempting, might well backfire.

    The issue is further complicated because as primary law will have to be changed to deal with the three extra German MEPs. When Lisbon enters into force, this will be in breach of the treaty.

    Finally, the idea is that the Commission president would have to obtain an absolute majority of component members in July, even if not required by treaty, as he will have to pass that test one day – and politically if he gets less, he will be very fragile. This means that the reference for absolute majority must be the 751 of Lisbon and not the 736 of Nice, ie 376 votes. For the record, Barroso received 413 in July 2004.

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