The European Council - EU heads of state and government - should honour the citizens’ choice when proposing a candidate for Commission President, to be elected by Parliament under the new Lisbon Treaty arrangements, says a report voted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday. As many members of the next Commission as possible should be chosen from among MEPs, it adds.

"The proposals I make in my report have three aims: strengthening the European Commission’s democratic legitimacy, ensuring that the separation of powers in the European Union is properly applied and enabling the European Parliament to exercise its power of scrutiny to the full. I believe that we have achieved a good result which helps to improve the sustainability of the EU democratic process", said rapporteur Paulo Rangel (EPP, PT).

The report, approved by 18 votes to 4, with one abstention, stresses that the new procedure whereby the European Commission President is elected by Parliament “will make the European elections more important, by linking the voters' choice in the elections to the European Parliament more directly to the election of the Commission President”.


European Council urged to honour EU citizens’ choice


MEPs invite the European Council to clarify, in a timely manner and before the elections, “how it will take account of the elections to the European Parliament and will honour the citizens' choice when putting forward a candidate for President of the Commission”, in the context of consultations to take place between Parliament and the European Council under Declaration 11 annexed to the Lisbon Treaty (text below).


Once the candidate has been designated by the European Council, he or she should be asked to present policy guidelines for his or her term of office to the European Parliament. This presentation should be followed by a comprehensive exchange of views, before Parliament proceeds to elect the proposed candidate for the post, says the committee.


Some Commissioners should be chosen from among MEPs


The Commission President-elect should act more autonomously than has been the case in the past when selecting the other members of the EU’s executive body, MEPs say. They urge him/her to insist to member states’ governments that “the candidates for the office of Commissioner must enable him/her to compose a gender-balanced college, and allow him/her to reject any proposed candidate that fails to demonstrate general competence, European commitment or indubitable independence”.


The committee asks that “as many members of the next Commission as possible are chosen from among elected Members of the European Parliament”.


Efficiency and size of the next Commission


The reduction in the Commission’s size envisaged under the Lisbon Treaty will no longer take effect in 2014, due to the decision taken by the European Council at the request of the Irish government. “Additional measures, such as the appointment of Commissioners without portfolio or the establishment of a system of Vice-Presidents of the Commission with responsibilities over major thematic clusters and with competences to coordinate the work of the Commission in the corresponding areas, should be envisaged for the more effective functioning of the Commission”, says the report.


MEPs call on the next constitutional Convention to revisit the question of the Commission’s size, as well as those of its organisation and functioning. Also, in a future revision of the EU treaties, the majority currently required for a motion of censure against the Commission should be reduced, so as to require only a majority of the component MEPs, without putting the proper functioning of the institutions at risk, they add.


Next steps


The report is to be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the March plenary session.


Note to editors


Article 17(7) of the Treaty on European Union says "Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure".


Declaration 11 annexed to the Lisbon Treaty states that "the European Parliament and the European Council are jointly responsible for the smooth running of the process leading to the election of the President of the European Commission. Prior to the decision of the European Council, representatives of the European Parliament and of the European Council will thus conduct the necessary consultations in the framework deemed the most appropriate. These consultations will focus on the backgrounds of the candidates for President of the Commission, taking account of the elections to the European Parliament, in accordance with the first subparagraph of Article 17(7). The arrangements for such consultations may be determined, in due course, by common accord between the European Parliament and the European Council".