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Debate: EU elected president

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Revision as of 17:46, 23 April 2008

Given the EU’s recent expansion and growth as an international body, is it time it had a directly elected leader?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Jonathan Simons. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

At present the Presidency of the European Union rotates between its fifteen member states every six months, but this involves chairing EU summits and meetings of the Council of Ministers, along with the power to set the agenda in EU affairs. Central Power within the EU lies in the European Commission, headed by its own President, since 1999 Romano Prodi. The governments of the 15 member states currently appoint the President of the Commission. In the recently convened Constitutional Convention on the future of Europe, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the future direction of the EU is being debated. The proposal for a directly elected President of the European Commission bears directly on the future shape of the EU, with proponents of the federal model seeing this as a giant leap towards a single state, with opponents agreeing but seeing this as a further intrusion into national sovereignty.[1]

Strong management: Is strong management of the EU required?

Yes

Running the complex EU state apparatus requires a strong President: The European Union has an impressive list of state apparatus - judiciary, laws, flag, anthem, currency, police force - to run this effectively a strong President is needed. An appointed President of the Commission owes his position to national governments and has no direct mandate from the EU’s citizens; a directly elected President would have the status and the authority to govern for all.[2]

No

Strong presidential state powers are unnecessary and uncalled for: Electing a President confers legitimacy on such a move and represents the inevitability of a European superstate, which is not necessarily desirable. The fifteen national governments in the Council of Ministers are all democratically elected with a mandate to govern in the best interests of their citizens.[3]

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Yes

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No

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Legitimacy: Would the election of a President make the EU a more accountable institution?

Yes

At present one of the main Euro-sceptic arguments is that the EU is uncontrollable: A directly elected President would make the European Union both more legitimate and accountable, which is desirable. In any case, enlargement to 25 or more states requires institutional changes to avoid complete gridlock in decision-making.[4]

No

A President could not accurately hold such a complicated system to account: There would still be an unelected central bank, court and commission making decisions. Legitimacy would not come. Nor would an elected President solve the problems of enlargement, as gridlock in the Council of Ministers, where real power is located, will be even more frequent than it is now.[5]

EU historical aims: Have the historical aims and trends in the EU been toward greater unification?

Yes

The purpose of the European Union has been full political and economic integration since the Treaty of Rome in the 1950s: Ever-closer union has been the aim. A President is necessary and inevitable for a federal grouping of States.[6]

No

To say such a move is inevitable is deterministic: Integration is not the only path forward. Canada remains autonomous from the US and co-operates with it in NAFTA and NATO without the need for a North American President. The imposition of an elected President may well lead to federalisation but this is not inevitable.[7]

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Yes

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No

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Yes

The European Union’s key problem is its perceived remoteness, inability to follow a wanted agenda and the problem of influencing it from without. Direct elections of a powerful president would allow citizens to set, not follow the European Union Agenda. The renewed interest would boost voter turn out and help engage with the European Union’s bodies.[8]

No

People dislike the future direction of the European Union. Issues such as CAP, asylum etc. etc. can all be solved without the imposition of a directly elected President who would take power away from the Nation states, thus taking the European Union even further from people’s consciousness. An alternative proposal would be for the Council of Ministers to end the rotating six-month Presidency, and for its member states to appoint a politician to run the Council’s meetings and represent Europe more effectively.[9]

Democracy and representation: Is it important that the people themselves democratically elect an EU President?

Yes

By seeking a mandate for popular reform, the European Union must seek the good will of the people: In this way effective solutions can be found, rather than unelected leaders who had no risk of being replaced and thus feel no compulsion to act in the people’s best interests.[10]

No

Judges frequently are not elected, why must the President be?:

Elections would force EU politicians to act as populists: Populist decisions are frequently not in the interests of the European Union. In addition, many necessary European Union reforms, such as CAP are politically unviable, especially in Spain and France, for example. For the good of the European Union such measures need to be taken, but will not be if it becomes to subject to public opinion.[11]

References:

Motions:

  • This House supports an elected EU President
  • This House believes in a federal Europe
  • This House believes that the EU must be accountable to its citizens

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also on Debatepedia:

External links and resources:

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