After the Irish ’no’ vote, Jean Dominique Giuliani acknowledges that the European Union has a problem with its population. The chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation puts forward his proposal to avoid the crisis in a web article titled ‘If the people say no – let the people speak!’:
The European Union must now show that it is possible to respect national identity and yet build a supranational democracy. Giuliani proposes allied national lists to put forward their candidates for the Commission president in the European elections 2009 and a simultaneous referendum on the choice of a president for the European Council.
I have supposed, even without the Treaty of Lisbon in force, that the main European level parties are going to put forward their candidates for president of the European Commission. Even under the Treaty of Nice, nothing prevents the European Council to act in accordance with the election result.
The president of the European Council is, in my view, a trickier proposition.
First of all, the semi-permanent president of the meetings of heads of state or government is a creation of the Lisbon Treaty. If the amending treaty is still in tatters ahead of the European Parliament elections, there is no post to fill (immediately).
Second, even with the Lisbon Treaty in force, every move to strengthen the role of the intergovernmental branch of the European Union tends to overshadow the role of the European Parliament and the European Commission, potentially closer to reforms for democratic legitimacy and accountability. Thus, the best option would be to let the Commission president chair the meetings of the European Council, as proposed by the ‘Who do I call?’ campaign:
If the member states refuse to combine the posts, they should at least see to fair and transparent procedures, with open nominations, public debate and transparent decision-making.
The merit of Giuliani’s analysis is the acknowledgement that the EU needs some democratic reform.
Sadly lacking in Giuliani’s editorial is the wholehearted endorsement of EU level democracy. Instead, his proposals are selective sops aimed at appeasing an increasingly hostile population.
Far from enough, Giuliani’s Europe would still have a problem with its population.
Only wholesale EU level democracy can give the necessary European project the legitimacy and accountability it needs.