Dimitris Rapidis

Discussions behind the doors have been set on fire regarding the position of the next President of the EU Commission. This process was believed to belong to the past, being the norm for decades in the Council of the European Union. In other words, until this latest campaign, which was the first electoral race for the Head of the Commission since the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the political figure to represent the European Union globally and executing the powers assigned by the EU Commission was decided on the grounds of what the most powerful leaders of the EU wanted: a mild President? a powerful President? an accommodating figure? In all cases, the voice of the European citizens was never heard. What about now?

In the aftermath of the European Parliament Elections 2014 the majority of the European Union’s citizens took for granted that the political group that would win the elections would be in place to position its candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission (i.e. definitely after consultation between the candidates and the verdict of the European Parliament). The outcome showed that Jean-Claude Junker was “elected” President amongst Martin Schultz, Guy Verhofstadt, Ska Keller and Alexis Tsipras as EPP achieved to gather majority in the European Parliament. And as it is the case in representative political systems, the head of the party that wins the elections becomes President or Prime Minister. From this perspective, EPP is the winner of the elections and, therefore, Junker should be the next President of the European Commission.

On the other hand, we are -or we need to be- aware of the fact that the current structure of the European Union enhances multilateral negotiations between the leaders of the member-states for such high-stake positions and issues, instead of a bottom-up model that recognizes the power and will of the citizens. It is true that for the first time in the European history we had two televised debates, structured and penetrating campaigns and debates in all member-states and the social media, people engaged in voluntary basis to promote these campaigns, as well as other features of electoral race that resemble to what we have experienced in our member-states when national elections take place. Nonetheless, all these are -possibly- meant to end up in the dustbin, as we forgot how decisions are taken in the the highest level: through compromise between the most powerful leaders of the EU. From the moment that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM David Cameron put doubts for the position of the Presidency, we are sure that in this chessboard whatever has been done so far during the last couple of months, has no significance in decision-making. If Junker is not to be elected President of the European Commission, the European Union will be faced again with the ghosts of the last four years: doubts over its legitimacy; institutional deficit; euroscepticism; prevalence of hard-liners and populists in the European Parliament. And why that? Because these elections were especially marked by the strong effort of the European Commission to motivate citizens to go and vote for the leader they prefer as President of the European Commission. If this campaign goes in vain, then the European institutions will lose -again- the least of credibility and accountability that have been built these months regarding voting mobility.

At the end of the day, what really matters is decision-making. Yet, if the leaders of the European Union have doubts over who will be the next President of the European Commission, I see one suggestion left: to establish a ballot box in Brussels and urge the EU28 leaders to vote for or against Junker. This would be a transitional, ad hoc, process but strongly invested with accountability and democratic legitimacy.

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