EU Internal Policy

Juncker’s all-powerful EU dream iS DOOMED, says president’s own deputy!

JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker’s grand dream for an all-powerful EU president appeared to be going up in smoke today as even his deputy admitted it is unlikely to ever be sanctioned by member states.

EU Commission First Vice-President Frans TimmermansEbS

EU Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Frans Timmermans told reporters the proposal to merge the EU Commission and Council leadership positions into one super presidency was a long-term ambition that may never be realised.He said eurocrats need to “call member states’ bluff” over the democratic deficit within the bloc, but predicted national leaders will not want to go down the route of a directly elected Commission.

Dutch official Mr Timmermans, who is the Commission First-Vice President, made the remarks as he gave his own mini State of the Union address about reform of the EU’s decades-old institutions.Yesterday in his keynote address Mr Juncker surprised delegates by recommending the merger of the EU Council and Commission presidencies once his tenure has finished in 2019.

This super president would then be directly elected by European voters, helping to dispel one of the most enduring and damaging criticism of Brussels – that it is run by unaccountable eurocrats.
The idea is effectively a resurrection of the proposals in the failed 2004 EU constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters, to create an all-powerful, directly elected EU president.However, many national capitals fear that giving the EU Commission the legitimacy of being elected would effectively make it a parallel power structure that threatens their own positions.

And it was immediately slapped down by two EU leaders. Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he did not want the bloc to “mix competences”, whilst his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte mocked the Commission chief as a “romantic”.

I’m not sure it’s where Member States will take us in the future

Frans Timmermans

And speaking to reporters in Brussels today, Mr Timmermans conceded: “What president Juncker has said is in the long run, – and he’s not talking about tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or the tenure of this Commission – Member States and the institutions will have to face the question of more directly democratic mandates.“[He] wanted to show a future vision of an EU level where people are more accountable to their voters because they’re directly elected. I think that’s a good thing but I’m not sure it’s where Member States will take us in the future.”

And he added: “Don’t underestimate the duality of positions of some Member States who would argue that they don’t want us to do something because we’re unelected, but who would fight to the death to prevent us from being elected in the future. At some point we will have to call their bluff.”

The senior eurocrat said a streamlining of the EU’s decision making process was required because at the moment citizens don’t understand how its different parts work, leading to confusion.

He said the finger of blame is often pointed at the “EU” as one single entity, even though in truth it is made up of three separate and at times competing institutions.The bloc is made up of the EU Commission, an unelected executive which drafts and implements laws, the EU Parliament of MEPs that scrutinises them and the EU Council of 28 which sets the broad political direction.

Criticism of the “democratic deficit” within this setup featured prominently in the Brexit debate and has also been raised in other countries in light of the EU overriding the results of national referendums.

Mr Juncker and his senior team appear to have acknowledged that having an unelected institution, detached from the people, wielding such power is untenable and have made recent efforts to improve its public image.

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