Strengthen the euro and reform the European Commission
At a time of European debt crisis, when some see a common currency as a straightjacket, Europe must follow through and strengthen the euro. Europe must also move on political reform. One place to start: Elect the president of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.
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On the political front it may be difficult at a time when understandably all attention seems to be focused on the debt crisis and the euro. In addition, the fate of the so-called Constitutional Treaty and the tortured process leading to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty might well be expected to reduce the appetite of national governments to contemplate any further substantial reform. However, surely reform is indispensable in order to address the undoubted reality of the democratic deficit? The plain fact is that the European Parliament, worthy though its efforts are, has not provided the legitimacy required. What is needed are two further changes.Skip to next paragraph
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The first of these is a democratic election of the president of the European Commission [the executive arm of the EU] combined with further steps to legitimize nationally each of the commissioners to be appointed by him. The election of the commission president is essential.
In turn, he should be empowered to choose his commissioners from national slates while maintaining the requirement that each nationality be represented. He should be required to take account in his selection of each of the commissioners of the political balance required both in the college and to reflect public opinion in the member states individually. The selection of those to be included in national slates could be through the national parliaments or through some form of electoral primary system such as the one in the United States.
The second requirement needed to address the democratic deficit is greater engagement by national parliaments in the deliberations of their representatives in the Council of Ministers on proposals for legislation made by the commission. This is necessary both to improve the quality of legislation and to alert electorates to the full consequences of such legislative proposals. The often unseemly backroom technocratic fixing that currently takes place between the commission and the member states should give way to greater national engagement and the test of open public transparency.