EP elections as something more attractive?

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said: Next year’s European elections are of paramount of importance. For the first time there will be candidates from the European political parties for the post of European Commission President, this should engender a greater interest in Europe’s future.

Questions:

1. Frankly, seems to me that the idea of nominating a candidate for the post of European Commission President is a bit desperate measure how to make the European elections more attractive. But anyway, what do you think about it, how it may influence the elections?

2. I know it is more of a speculation, but especially if we look at 2 biggest European political groups do some names come to you mind as potential candidates, and why them?

Answers:

Pavlos EfthymiouPhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge

1. It is true that this measure is intended to maximize interest and participation to the elections. Not sure and to what extent nominating a Candidate though will change the ‘spirit’ of the election. Usually it is a ‘punish’ or ‘approval’ vote for the governing party home (national level). I suspect that given the adverse, eurosceptic climate and the justified distaste of the majority of the European public for the policies of austerity, I can see the elections transforming into a ‘punishment’ of the President of the Commission for his/her policies and depending on the countries which support him (e.g. Germany)-

2. Now, strikingly, even though Martin Schulz certainly has the ‘German stamp’ he has been one of the most positive, constructive, solid yet understanding and balanced figures throughout this crisis It would make sense for the member states to unite behind him. However, member states do not always choose on that basis. Ideologically as far as the spirit in Europe is concerned, it would still make sense for many m-S to keep Barroso in place. However, I think that his public image has by now tired and it would be rational to try and re-invigorate the image of Europe and the Commission, with a change. A new, fresh face, perhaps more left-leaning could do the trick.

Monika Mühlböck, Senior Scientist, Institute of Political Science, University of Salzburg

1. To what extent the prenomination of candidates for the post of Commission President will influence the elections will mainly depend on the candidates chosen and the efforts made by the parties to put these candidates into spotlight. If a party can agree on a candidate with a strong public profile, this may help this party in the election campaign (at least in the member state where the candidate is from). Also, such candidates and their programmes for the next years might provide focal points for Europe-wide campaigns. Furthermore, a President with a strong public profile could strengthen the weight of the Commission vis-à-vis the other EU institutions. Still, one should not forget that the European parties consist of national parties and that the willingness of national parties to support a strong candidate from another member state might be limited. Hence, the theoretical potential for a stronger centralization and personalization of EP election campaigns might not be used in practice.

2. This is pure speculation. However, names popping up in this context are Jean-Claude Juncker for the EPP and Guy Verhofstadt or Pat Cox for ALDE.

Frank HägeLecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick

One criticism often levelled at the EU is that the Commission is not democratically accountable. By linking the formation of the Commission with the outcome of EP elections, citizens get a more direct say in who will be governing Europe (assuming that member state governments accept that linkage as well; they are the ones who formally have the right to nominate the Commission President). The Commission appointment process will become more political, and as a result, the Commission itself will be transformed into a more party-political body as well. Whether this will really incentivize more citizens to vote or not is an open question. The problem seems rather that people do not know how much the EU is regulating their life and how much influence the EP actually has in shaping those policies. If the increased party-political competition increases the level of information about the EU, the nomination of candidates might have a positive effect on turnout.

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One Response

  1. EU Presidents like Barroso being chosen behind closed doors, and the EU Commission worry about voter apathy and democractic deficit within Europe, wake up and smell the reality?

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