Even if José Manuel Barroso happened to be the best Commission President ever, the European political families should be hard at work competing for the next five year stint at the helm of the Commission. If political parties at European level, representing 500 million EU citizens, are unable to find one qualified candidate each, they betray both their calling and the voters.
However, progress has been slow and the preliminary discussions mainly confined to intergovernmental discussions brought to light by snippets of information to the public.
Consequently, blogger friend Jon Worth launched the campaign Anyone But Barroso on his Euroblog, in order to kick-start the democratic impulses among the European parties:
The aim is commendable, but the results are dismal.
European People’s Party
One of the few things we EU citizens have seen, is that José Manuel Barroso seems keen to take on another five years as Commission President.
But the latest news item from the European People’s Party is EPP President Wilfried Martens commending the Commission’s economic stimulus package under Barroso’s leadership (26 November 2008). But this still falls short of a public nomination or even an endorsement of Barroso’s candidacy:
In other words, even Barroso has not been nominated as yet, although a number of members of the nominating European Council from different political families have spoken out in favour of him.
Party of European Socialists
Yesterday the Party of European Socialists (PES) published its manifesto for the June 2009 European elections ‘People first. A new direction for Europe’. The election manifesto was adopted by the PES Council in Madrid (1 December 2008):
Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, is positively brimming with confidence in an EurActiv interview today:
Schulz argues that the socialists are going to become bigger than the conservatives and the liberals combined after the June 2009 elections. He seems oblivious of the current predilection for centre-right parties in EU member states and of internecine warfare among French socialists, split three ways. But most of all, he fails to address how his boundless optimism is going to be transmitted to European electors by a faceless campaign without a top-drawer candidate for the Commission Presidency.
European Liberal Democrats Party
The great annual event for the European Liberal Democrats Party (ELDR) was the party congress on 30 and 31 October 2008 in Stockholm. The congress adopted resolutions with a view to the European elections, but not a word was communicated on the party’s candidate to take over the post as President of the European Commission:
European Green Party
I tried to find a press release on the leading Green candidate on the web site of the European Green Party:
Hardly surprising by now, but I found nothing (nobody).
The Treaty of Lisbon is not going to be in force in time for the European Parliament elections in June, but Article 214(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community requires the approval of the European Parliament for the President of the Commission:
Article 214(2) TEC
2. The Council, meeting in the composition of Heads of State or Government and acting by a qualified majority, shall nominate the person it intends to appoint as President of the Commission; the nomination shall be approved by the European Parliament.
Even under the current rules, a European Parliament with backbone could ensure open nominations in advance, public campaigns interacting with the citizens of the EU and respect for the outcome of the EP elections.
Nothing prevents the heads of state or government (European Council) to proclaim that they are going to take into account the elections to the European Parliament, because they already committed themselves politically when they signed the Constitutional Treaty in 2004.
Still under the existing rules, Article 191 TEC sets out the important task for the European political parties, the one for which they and their foundations can draw funds from EU taxpayers:
Article 191 TEC
Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.
How can the political parties at European level even pretend to fulfil their basic tasks, if they fail to field candidates for the Commission Presidency?
After this depressing perusal of the state of the union, I have to return to the Anyone But Barroso slogan.
Instead of ruminating about my preferred candidate, I don the cap of an independent political tactician.
If I happened to be in Declan Ganley’s shoes, I wouldn’t hesitate a moment before becoming or launching the Libertas candidate for President of the Commission.
The European level parties have, as it seems, rejected the voters and created a vacuum waiting to be filled. In the case of Libertas this gift from heaven would give them at least three aces on a silver tray: one positive campaign message instead of only negative ones, a face to project to millions of television and PC screens all over Europe and the potential for a real break-through in the EP elections.
If this happens, the established European political parties have brought it upon themselves.