A longer post on the democratic implications of what we’ve seen in Europe in the past few weeks is in the works. In the meantime, here’s an extract from a speech given by Alexander Stubb, Finland’s Europe Minister, which touches on the big issue – how do we, can we, give a stronger Europe a stronger democratic legitimacy?
We need to make a different choice – fewer [EU-level] presidents, not more. I think we should streamline decision-making in the euro area and at the same time ensure that the institutional set up leads to more coherence, not entrenchment and infighting.
My solution would be to combine the functions of the Presidents of the Commission, the European Council and Euro Area Summits into one high post. In effect, not double-hatting, but triple-hatting the holder of office. As we have seen, combining the presidency of the European Council and Euro Area Summits works.
You can just select the same person to all three posts. It does not require treaty change. But making this permanent and doing so in a clear and unequivocal manner – paying careful attention to procedures and structures – would require treaty change. It is worth exploring. My conviction is that this solution would be of great benefit to the Commission and the community method – the Commission would naturally take centre-stage. Let’s be frank, the financial crisis has not been good to the community method.
Careful attention should be given to how this European President would be elected and how he or she would work. And I do not pretend that I have a ready and detailed blue print in my back pocket. … I am not proposing institutional innovations just for the fun of it, but we need to remember that form follows function. There is a need for more leadership in Europe and I would rather have this leadership in the hands of a joint – perhaps elected – trustee, than self-anointed member states. I would rather choose an open rostrum than a smoke-filled backroom.