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4.4.  Prospects of European governance

    Thanks to the EU's ordinary legislative procedure, which replaced the ''Community method'' of decision-making [see section 4.3], the often conflicting national interests are passed through the successive filters of three institutions, each defending different but complementary interests: the Commission, the common interest; the Council, the interests of the Member States; the Parliament, the interests of the citizens of the Union. European policies thus rarely - if ever - can promote the interests of some Member States at the expense of those of some others. In the absence of such filters, an intergovernmental cooperation scheme wishing to serve equally all national interests would have to give equal weight to the positions defended by each one of the participating governments and this would lead to a standstill. If it gave policy leadership to a few Member States, namely the bigger ones, intergovernmental cooperation would lead to conflicts of interests and hence to secessionist tendencies.

    "European governance" - i.e., the structure, the rules, processes and behaviour of the actors that affect the way in which powers are exercised at European level - has worked relatively well up to now, since it has made possible all the achievements of the common policies examined in this book. Therefore, the role of the existing institutions should not be radically changed, nor should new institutions be added, because the rules of the functioning of the protagonists of European integration might be altered, with unknown consequences. However, European governance has already reached its limits of efficiency, even after the improvements brought about by the Treaty of Lisbon. It is doubtful that it could function efficiently in a union of twenty-seven - and soon more - Member States, which could in addition have the ambition to deepen their political union. In order to enable the Union to better face internal and external challenges, a drastic reform of the institutions is needed.

    The structure of the European Commission, in particular, should be democratised in parallel with the reinforcement of its role, because its technocratic character, useful as it is, engenders its remoteness from the citizens of the Member States. The Commission is already the executive body of the European Union, since it proposes the legislation to the legislative bodies, executes their decisions and controls their implementation by the Member States. It thus plays the role of a "proto-government" of the Union, which has not full democratic legitimacy, since the Commissioners are not elected but are appointed by the governments of the Member States. The solution to this problem would be to entrust the citizens themselves with the election of the members of the Commission at the occasion of European elections. One month before this election, which takes place in June every five years, the national parliament of each country could propose to its electorate two or three candidates for the post of the Commissioner, each one of whom should gather at least 33% of the votes of the Parliament, which means that at least one of them could have the support of more than one party. The citizens would elect one of the two or three candidates proposed by the national parliament casting a ballot in addition to those for the members of the European Parliament and of the Committee of the Regions (see below). Both the national parliaments and the voters of each country would have an interest in choosing a strong personality having the necessary qualifications to claim a good post inside the Commission. Moreover, with the election of their Commissioner, the citizens of each country would feel that they participate in the governance of the Union.

    The incentive to choose strong personalities would be greater, if the  president of the Commission and the vice-president, who would also be the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy were also elected democratically. To this end: (a) all the democratically elected Commissioners – and only they – should be eligible for the presidency and vice-presidency of the Commission; and (b) they should be proposed to the European Parliament by the simple majority of the heads of State or government (plus one, if the number of States of the Union were even), which however should represent at least half the population of the Union. This double majority would solve the problem of the relative weight of the big and small countries, since the ''big'' (who all together could represent more than half of the population of the Union) would need the agreement of several ''small'' in order to elect their candidates. With the proposed method, the president and the vice-president of the Commission would be elected first by their compatriots, then by the majority of the governments of the Union and, finally, by the majority of the members of the European Parliament. They would not spring out of the inspiration of the moment and the political bargaining of the heads of State or government, as is now the case, but they would have a double legitimacy, national and European. It would thus be likely that the president and the vice-president of the Commission would be elected for their competences to direct the Commission and to collaborate participate efficiently in the governance of the Union with the permanent president of the European Council, provided by the treaty of Lisbon. Their aptitude should be assessed by the European Parliament.

    The European Parliament should play an important role not only in the investiture of the executive authority of the Union, but also in its monitoring. In addition to the legality of the actions of the Commissioners, the Parliament should permanently control their independence in respect of their country of origin and their efficiency in the implementation of their pre-approved work programme. In case of a serious maladministration, the Parliament could pass a motion of censure against the Commission by a two-thirds majority of its members and thus compel it to resign (Article 234 TFEU), as it has threatened to do in March 1999. The political role of the European Parliament would thus resemble that of a national parliament, which controls the government of its country. At the same time, the legislative power of the Parliament - through the ordinary legislative procedure - should be extended to all legislative fields, including that of foreign and security policy, which could thus, little by little, become a real common policy and propel the Union on the world scene.

    The roles of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions should be boosted. Actually, these consultative organs suffer from their insufficient representativeness and from their deficient influence on European decisions. In order to ensure that the members of the EESC are in principle chosen for their competence rather than for their political allegiance, they should be co-opted by the members of the professional and other organisations that they would represent in Brussels without government intervention in their appointment. In order to bring the Committee of the Regions closer to the local and regional populations that it should represent, its members should be chosen directly by them at European elections, at the same time as that of European MPs and the Commissioners. To boost the efficiency of opinions of the consultative organs, the competent parliamentary commission(s) should present to the plenary assembly of the European Parliament a report taking up the suggestions and general comments of the EESC and the Committee of the Regions as well as the amendments proposed by them on different points or articles of a European Commission proposal. The assembly should pronounce itself for or against the opinions not only of the parliamentary commission but also of those of the consultative organs. The European Parliament would thus have a central role in the EU's legislative process, since its amendments would reflect also the positions of the professional organisations and of the regional authorities.

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

    Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
    Access to European Union law, economics, policies
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    Translated into 14 languages


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