Sunday 15 November 2009

President of the European Council vote

Eurobloggers have actively spread the word about the vote arranged by Fondation Robert Schuman between some of the personalities officially in the running or presumed to be candidates for the new post of president of the European Council, to be decided by the heads of government or state on 19 November 2009.

Here are some of the blog posts about the vote on the president of the European Council:

Eurosocialist(e): The best of the web: vote for the European Council President (11 November 2009)

European Union Law, Vihar Georgiev: Now You Can Choose the President of the European Council (13 November 2009)

Grahnlaw, Ralf Grahn: Final ratification of EU Lisbon Treaty – finally (14 November 2009)

Grahnlaw, Ralf Grahn: Your vote for the(ir) President of the European Council! (14 November 2009)

The European Citizen, Conor Slowey: You shouldn’t get to vote for the President of the European Council (14 November 2009)


The European Citizen

Most of the blog posts mentioned encourage EU citizens to express their opinion, by voting between the candidates on offer (NB Not all candidates are there).

The European Citizen discusses the new post in terms of principles: The chairman of the European Council should not be directly elected, but open election procedures are called for. Arguing for opaqueness is ridiculous.


I broadly agree with The European Citizen, although I see the (s)election procedures as a sad illustration of intergovernmental cooperation. This is what you get, if you want a European Union of “freely cooperating, sovereign nation states”.

But for those, like The European Citizen, who want a (more) democratic European Union, the official black-out concerning candidates and most member states’ preferences, as well as the priority given to the sensitivities of our national leaders are a disgrace. The secrecy makes a mockery out of the basic Lisbon Treaty principle of a union “in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”.

The first acts under the Lisbon Treaty run contrary to its basic aims.

At national level, politicians have to endure the rigours of election campaigns. How can it be right that at European level their feelings should be spared?

It is as if the winner of the national football cup should be allowed to participate in the European cup without publicity, in order not to hurt the team’s feelings, if it happens to lose. Why is it impossible to continue playing at national level, come Monday?

Wrong model

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s presidential ambitions for this post make it an anomaly, as if we needed a French presidential democracy in the EU. France is the exception, not the rule, in European traditions of representative democracy.

Anything beyond a chairman complicates the structure of the European Union, potentially leading to turf wars between the president of the European Council, the high representative and the president of the Commission.

When the time for reform comes, it is not a presidential democracy, but a parliamentary system, built on proportional representation, which is the right model. In this I agree with The European Citizen.

The Commission is the germ of the future government, based on the results of the European Parliament elections.


Participate in the poll

Even if there is little reason to enhance the role of the president of the European Council, the poll arranged by the Fondation Robert Schuman is important in its own way.

Lively participation shows that EU citizens are interested and engaged, and that is a sign of health.

I see this vote as a wake-up call for a better union, where the citizens set the course for government.

The Holy Alliance is not the model for the future European Union in the 21st century, and our leaders should finally begin to accept that.

I strongly urge all EU citizens to participate in the Fondation Robert Schuman poll.


The candidates

The candidates on offer in the Fondation Robert Schuman poll are, in alphabetical order: Jan Peter Balkenende, Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Herman Van Rompuy and Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, has openly declared that he is in the running to become either president of the European Council or high representative, but he is not among the listed candidates.

According to Javno, the president of the European Parliament, Poland’s Jerzy Buzek, yesterday called for José Maria Aznar, the conservative former prime minister of Spain, to become the new president of the European Council.


My suggestion is: Show the engagement of civil society by voting for one of the candidates on offer, or show your support for another candidate by commenting on blogs or using other suitable means.

Participation does not preclude you from advocating a sounder structure for the future union.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Do you find EUSSR myths fascinating? Are we EU citizens worth a better European Union? Read the Euroblogs aggregated on multilingual, and discuss our common future.


  1. Ralf,

    In the spirit of debate, I've written a counter to your support for an EU parliamentary system. I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

    My post is here.

  2. Joe,

    Despite your spirited argument, I disagree.

    In the USA, the executive power is vested in the president, who is assisted by secretaries and the rest of the administration. This model would be even less all-encompassing than the French system.

    The British parliamentary democracy has been important historically, but I would not use it as a model for the 21st century. . Parochial electoral districts, ‘elective dictatorship’ and first past the post are not worth emulating.

    Proportional, pan-European elections leading to coalition governments are the model best attuned to European parliamentary traditions, in my view.

    In a democratic European Union, the current European Parliament would evolve into the principal chamber, elected by the citizens. I am afraid that the states would insist on representation, so we would have to endure a second chamber; thus the president of the European Council would evolve into an upper house speaker.

    Representative democracy builds on the idea that the voters decide which parties succeed well enough to be able to form a government, and thus its general course. Continuing scrutiny by parliament is, or at least can be, more effective than a one-off election of a president by popular vote.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.