Wednesday 17 June 2009

Shrinking the Commission?

EurActiv reported that Germany will opt for a 12 to 18 member Commission, if the Treaty of Nice remains in force, implying the “problem countries” would not be represented in the college. See: Ireland to re-vote to weigh on new Commission’s appointment (15 June 2009).

“Ominous noises”

On The European Citizen blog, Eurocentric noted the EurActiv article with the question about the size of the Commission: The Irish (Provisional) Guarantees (16 June 2009):

“The most important part of the guarantee will be that of one commissioner per member state, as the other guarantees really just restate and clarify the situation under the Lisbon Treaty. There have been some ominous noises out of Germany that it could push for a drastically reduced Commission if the Lisbon Treaty isn't passed - from 27 to between 12 and 18 commissioners. Under the Nice Treaty the number of commissioners must be reduced for the next Commission to be lower than that of the number of member states.”


Name speculation

On the other hand, some information and speculation is emerging with regard to possible names to fill Commissioners’ jobs.

Jon Worth’s Euroblog has collected a number of comments with information about possible proposals from the member states and interested citizens: Think European Commission (since 15 June 2009).


EurActiv: Poland kicks off race for EU commissioner jobs (17 June 2009)



A new Commission is needed after 31 October 2009, and a number of posts have to be filled. What we do not know, at this stage, is the applicable treaty, procedure and number of Commissioners.

If the European Council is prepared to play with open cards, it should publicly agree on two alternative scenarios, one for the Treaty of Nice and another for the Lisbon Treaty, before the discussion starts in earnest.

Ralf Grahn


  1. It would be a very politically sensitive subject to discuss with the referendum coming up. I think that it would be good for the Council to say that, if the Lisbon Treaty isn't passed, they would implement either the original plan (rotation among member states with a Commissioner for 10 out of every 15 years) or a similar plan that ensures the equality of the member states.

    If the sense is that Ireland will get "punished", then it will sour the mood and damage the EU's image (further) in Ireland.

    But while I think it would be good to state the system they'll operate under, it would take up too much time and political capital instead of focusing on the Lisbon campaign (and the government here is embattled enough as it is). Perhaps a Council statement/commitment that any procedure under Nice would treat all member states equally would be a good idea.

  2. Eurocentric,

    My point of departure is the EU "in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen" thing our leaders have all signed up to.

    As a minimum, at this stage, they should publish the alternative procedures and the concession to the Irish in a precise, but readable manner to help EU citizens understand the situation.

    Beyond that, the (European) Council has not communicated on the preparatory work needed for the Lisbon Treaty since the Slovenian Council Presidency, a few 'ad hoc' conclusions excepted.

    In other words, preparation on all issues relevant to the Lisbon Treaty (and other matters) should take place openly, to allow for public debate.

    As soon as someone starts thinking in terms of "sensitive issues" it becomes a 'carte blanche' for keeping EU citizens in the dark and treating them as children.

    I understand that there is some need for confidentiality in public governance, but the (European) Council has much to learn if it wants to build trust.

    I admit that I feel annoyed, when I am reasonably sure that harmless and basic public information exists, but the powers that be refuse to make it public.

    (You should have followed the story about the European Council's refusal to publish a consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty - it took them four months to relent.)

  3. If the Commission is stripped of its non-executive powers, and put under the control of the EU Council, then it would become an ordinary civil service and we would be able to reduce the number of Commissioners to zero.

    This could be achieved by the Commission giving up its right to legislative initiative. It should not be able to determine the legislative majority requirements in the Council or indeed have to be consulted about pending legislation at all. Its quasi-judicial powers over competition policy and anti-dumping policy should be delegated to an independent competition authority.

    This would reduce the Commission to a secretariat unable to pursue its own 'more Europe' agenda which is progressively reducing the arena within which democratic politics is conducted towards vanishing point.

  4. Freeborn John,

    Your definition of "executive powers" has me somewhat confused, which means that "non-executive" powers do not appear clear either.

    Take, for instance, the US Constitution (Article II) which vests the executive power in the President.

    But I understand your general drift, to diminish the role of the Commission, although I do not share it.

    On the contrary, I see a parliamentary system at EU level as a preferable course, with an accountable government for the questions which are better handled at the European level.

    This is not in contradiction with independent regulatory agencies for competition, financial markets etc. in the future.


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