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Policy Paper

Why a partisan Commission president could be good for the EU. A response to Grabbe and Lehne


  Author: Pier Domenico Tortola
  Date: December 2013

Following a recent European Parliament resolution, the main European parties have decided to designate candidates for the post of European Commission president ahead of the May 2014 elections. The new procedure aims to increase electoral participation and, more generally, make the EU closer and more responsive to its citizens as a reaction to rising Euroscepticism in many member states. While the idea of indirectly electing the Commission president is mostly supported by Europhiles, some have expressed reservations about the new procedure, claiming that it could end up doing more harm than good to the European cause.
Among these critics are Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne, who have recently published a paper that represents the clearest statement to date of the case against indirect election. In this contribution I respond to Grabbe and Lehne’s arguments and show that although they raise important questions, their fears about the negative consequences of the new procedure are exaggerated. When all is considered, indirectly electing the next Commission president can not only contribute to solve the EU’s longstanding democratic deficit, but also and more broadly set in motion a number of institutional transformations that can help the Union exit its current crisis as a more solid and legitimate political project.