Earlier this week, the EU Heads of State and Government - the European Council, or “EUCO” - agreed on a package for the EU “top jobs”, in a process which caused disbelief and indignation among citizens.
It goes to show, yet again, that an intergovernmental European Union cannot and will not ever be able to live up to its promise of creating a real European democracy.
We, Young European Federalists, demand that the European Parliament assert its role and insist on democratic renewal.
Elected MEPs must choose Europe, against the short-sighted, nationally-driven electoral interest of EUCO leaders.
Just over a month ago EU national leaders welcomed the increased turnout in the European elections.
This week, they betrayed the trust of European voters and blatantly disregarded their will for a more democratic and transparent Union, by failing to nominate one of the lead candidates (“Spitzenkandidaten”) to the role of President of the European Commission.
“National leaders in the European Council have yet again neglected their responsibility for the European project.
The package that came out of the last EUCO summit is a slap in the face for thousands of volunteers who put their heart and soul into a campaign to increase voter turnout!
European citizens who cast their ballots in record numbers expected their vote to have a decisive role in shaping the way forward for the Union.
Nevermind: the European Council already managed to wash away every bit of enthusiasm for Europe that had been generated throughout the last months.
Proposing to the European Parliament - and European citizens! - a candidate for the Commission presidency who is unknown to most, did not stand in these elections, nor has presented a programme to address Europe’s main challenges, disrespects the mandate received from the European people.
Not even the fiercest defender of the European Union can justify a decision-making process defined by opaqueness, sleep deprivation and the absence of any clear criteria for candidates - apart, of course, from their need to satisfy petty national horse-trading”, commented Christopher Glueck.
“This is a denial of the democratic process. Once again, we are proven right: without deep institutional reforms, the Union can and will never be truly European.
The Spitzenkandidaten system, while an attempt at improving the democratic accountability of the European Executive, remained a hybrid between a parliamentary and presidential voting system, ultimately reliant on the good will of national leaders.
It was never going to work in the long run.
National leaders cannot be trusted to put the European interest before their short-term national interests.
Now is the time for radical democratic reform, which can only go one of two ways: either towards the direct election of the Commission President through transnational lists, or by giving full power to the European Parliament to choose a candidate on the basis of a majority coalition.
We have to be clear, an intergovernmental Union was never going to be a truly democratic Union.
The European Union will be by and with the citizens, or it will not be at all”, continues Glueck.
The European Parliament is the House of European democracy.
It failed to unite behind a political programme and a candidate to carry it, thereby opening the door to the death of the Spitzenkandidaten.
Members of the European Parliament must now reclaim their role as the representatives of European citizens.
In the next two weeks, they must insist on a binding agreement on key reforms, reflecting the policy priorities of the majority coalition that can arise in the House, before they give their consent for any candidate.
This must include an agreement on a democratic update of the Spitzenkandidaten process.
In the absence of such an agreement, the European Parliament has no other option left, but to reject the ‘top jobs’ package”, concluded Glueck.
About the author
Chris Glück is President of JEF and a member of New Europeans.
About JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO active with 13.000 members active in more than 30 countries.
The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights.
JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life.
While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.