Monday 11 May 2009

Anyone But Barroso and EU 2.0

I have not joined the Anyone But Barroso campaign, because I have limited my demands to competing candidates for the Commission Presidency. For me, the pan-European election comes first, the personalities second.

But I have been saddened by the fact that the Anyone But Barroso campaign has been in dire straits. Even if the campaigners were right about the need for a new President of the European Commission, the Europarties have failed in the very reason for their existence, to field competing candidates. They failed because of national heads of state or government, who are also national party leaders.

A host of heads of state or government in EU member states have gone back on the miserly concession they made when signing the Lisbon Treaty, to let the votes of EU citizens influence the nomination; this well ahead of the European elections.

N.B. These elites ─ heads of state or government ─are not “Brussels”, but national.


The Anyone But Barroso campaign site has reported on mischievous use, emanating from Portugal, and a few minutes ago I was unable to access the site because of overload.

Are these dark forces going to target the Financial Times next?

Wolfgang Münchau’s Financial Times column Like a fish, Europe is rotting from the head is a clear indictment of the premature choice of national leaders and the European People’s Party.

Well, I cannot remember even one spontaneous exclamation of joy from EPP grass roots.


An ever closer union among the members of the European Council against the EU citizens fails in two respects: legitimacy and outcomes.

To the extent possible, vote for the citizens’ European Union 2.0 in the European elections.

Ralf Grahn


  1. I support your call for a more involved, democratic "EU 2.0," Ralf.

    And I also share your misgivings about the lack of any competition to Barosso's re-election. Whether you support Barosso or not, this is not how democracy should work - and this is exactly what turns off voters.

    I would love a directly elected, directly accountable European President - but the question is how to get from here to there?

  2. Josef,

    We agree on most things, but I think that the merits of parliamentary vs. presidential systems should be discussed.

    Government accoutable to the parliament is perhaps more in the European tradition. This aspect of the British system is the norm.

    The other clear option is a presidential system, as in the USA where the executive is vested in one person.

    More than ever, France seems to have become a presidential system under Sarkozy, with the government as mere helpers of the president.

    But the directly elected President is not accountable to the parliament.

    Many European states have a mixture, but these can lead to mix-ups. See the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in Poland and the Czech Republic, or the problem of "two dinner plates" I have written about with regard to Finland.

    I see the President of the European Council as a very French idea, and potentially is the germ for a two-headed system, which could lead to unclear accountability.

    In other words, I lean towards an executive accountable to parliament.

  3. Hmm... I take your point.

    But the US has adopted the Presidential system precisely because it best fits the federal model. The President does not represent the individual interests of the states, but of the federation as a whole.

    And I'm not sure a possible "two-headed" approach is a weakness of a federal system. In fact, it might be the most important part of federalism - i.e. the seperation of power. There should never be one "head" of a federation.

    One of the problems with the EU is that we already have this seperation of powers, but there is no direct democratic accountability. Even with the European Parliament, I can only vote for MEPs in places I am a resident.

    This is why I want to vote directly for a European President.

  4. Josef,

    The relative merits of the systems can and should be discussed, but the crucial question is democratic accountability: EU as a union of people.


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