Are the “second order” elections to the European Parliament in June 2009 going to have any higher order meaning for the citizens of the European Union?
The first question is if the Europarties, officially the political parties at European level, launch credible candidates for the Commission Presidency and campaign on engaging European platforms.
The second issue is how the President of the Commission and the college of Commisioners, including the High Representative/Vice-President, is played out after the elections.
The third matter is if the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, and how the relations between the EU institutions are arranged (implemented) on the new treaty basis.
Nominations and implementation
The first question is in the able(?) hands of the Europarties, but a draft Report to be voted by the European Parliament gives impetus to the other EU institutions to move forward on the second and third issue.
Even if the proposals are guidelines more than details, Jean-Luc Dehaene has written a draft Report packed with implementation issues.
It is one of the three draft reports the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament (AFCO) will put to the vote on Monday evening 9 March 2009.
The draft Report on the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on the development of the institutional balance of the European Union (26 January 2009) is available at:
The procedure to follow for this own-initiative report is 2008/2073(INI).
Students of European integration may note with interest the replacement of the “Community method” by a (new) “Union method”, based on the Lisbon Treaty.
The essential traits of the Union method are presented like this:
– the European Council defines the general political directions and priorities,
– the Commission promotes the general interest of the Union and takes appropriate initiatives to that end,
– the European Parliament and the Council jointly exercise legislative and budgetary functions on the basis of the Commission's proposals,
The report welcomes that the Lisbon Treaty preserves and reinforces the essential elements of what is currently the Community method (point 3).
Institution by institution
The Report goes on to present the viewpoints of the European Parliament on the treaty reforms and their successful implementation, institution by institution. These include remarks on the conclusions of the December 2009 European Council.
The European Parliament, the European Council, the fixed Presidency of the European Council, the Council (including the separation of the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council) and the Commission are dealt with in clear and instructive comments pointing out both positive amendments and challenges for the cohesive functioning of the European Union.
In the view of the European Parliament, the election of the President of the Commission by the European Parliament on a proposal by the European Council will change the nature of his/her designation (point 33).
Under Lisbon Treaty
The Report proposes the following procedure and timetable for the nominations under the Lisbon Treaty:
– weeks 1 and 2 after the European elections: installation of the political groups in the European Parliament;
– week 3 after the elections: consultations between the President of the European Council and the President of the European Parliament, followed by separate meetings between the President of the European Council and the Presidents of the political groups (possibly also with the Presidents of the European political families or restricted delegations);
– week 4 after the elections: indication by the European Council, taking into account the results of the consultations mentioned in the previous indent, of the candidate for President of the Commission;
– weeks 5 and 6 after the elections: contacts between the candidate for President of the Commission and the political groups; presentation of that candidate in the European Parliament; vote in the European Parliament on the candidate for President of the Commission;
– July/August/September: the elected President of the Commission agrees with the European Council on the nomination of the High Representative and proposes the list of Commissioners-designate (including the High Representative/Vice-President);
– September: the European Council adopts the list of Commissioners-designate (including the High Representative/Vice-President);
– September/October: hearings of the Commissioners-designate and of the High Representative/Vice-President-designate by the European Parliament;
– October: the European Parliament votes on the entire college (including the High Representative/Vice-President); the European Council approves the new Commission; the new Commission takes up its duties;
– November: the European Council nominates the President of the European Council (point 42).
After June 2009 European elections
Crucial issues concerning EU citizens and the European elections from 4 to 7 June 2009 are if the Europarties launch credible candidates for the Commission Presidency and how the nomination procedures are conducted, when the modified Treaty of Nice is still in force, but the governments in 27 and the parliaments in 25 EU member states have approved the Lisbon Treaty (politically).
Therefore it is highly interesting to see what the Dehaene Report proposes for this transitional period with regard to the latter question.
The draft Report calls for a political agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament in order to ensure that the procedure for the choice of the President of the next Commission and for the nomination of the future Commission will, in any case, respect the substance of the new powers that the Treaty of Lisbon recognizes to the European Parliament on this issue (point 44).
Should the European Council launch the procedure for the designation of the President of the new Commission without delay after the European elections of June 2009 (as stated in the European Council’s Declaration on the appointment of the new Commission agreed on the 11 and 12 December 2008), it should duly take into account the necessary timeframe to allow the consultation procedure, as foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty, to be completed informally.
In that case, the President of the Commission, who may be approved by the European Parliament under the Nice procedure, could then be elected under the Treaty of Lisbon if the latter was to come into force, without the whole designation procedure needing to be resumed (point 45).
The draft Report stresses that, in any case, concerning the nomination of the new college, the procedure should only be launched after the results of the new referendum in Ireland are known; points out that as such the institutions would be fully aware of the future legal context in which the new Commission would exercise its mandate and could have duly into consideration their respective powers in the procedure, as well as the composition, structure and competencies of the new Commission; in the event of a positive outcome of the referendum, the formal approval of the new college by the European Parliament should only take place after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the election of the President of the Commission (point 46).
If the outcome of the referendum in Ireland is negative, the Treaty of Nice will continue to apply. In that case, the European Council has to take steps to reduce the number of Commissioners (point 47).
The Report makes several proposals for improved joint programming the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of activities and budgeting for each legislative term. This would entail moving from seven to five year financial frameworks (long term budgets) (points 48 to 51).
The Report regards the creation of the "double-hatted" High Representative/Vice-President as a fundamental step to ensure the coherence and visibility of the whole external action of the Union (point 54) and stresses the importance of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EP reminds that its approval is needed for the double-hatted High Representative/Vice-President as part of the college of Commissioners, and it stresses that it is fully committed to exercise its budgetary powers when the EEAS is established (points 55 and 56).
The Report acknowledges the complex nature of the EU’s external representation under the Treaty of Lisbon, and it proposes guidelines for coming implementation measures (points 61 to 63).
The Dehaene Report is interesting for everyone interested in the Lisbon Treaty and curious to imagine what the life of the EU would look like under the new treaty.