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Campaign briefing: Democracy and the European constitution

Leadership of the EU

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Europe needs a constitution
The draft European constitution
European foreign policy
Enlargement of the EU
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and European citizenship
Questions about a federal Europe
Glossary of the European Union
Why Britain should join the euro
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Campaign briefing: introduction
Leadership of the EU
The legislative process
Controlling justice and home affairs
Foreign and defence policy
Protecting human rights
Campaign briefing: conclusion
Resources on the European constitution

European Commission

possibly an increase

member state governments possibly an increase
European Parliament possibly an increase
member state parliaments no change
the citizens possibly an increase

The European Commission is the executive of the European Union, with the right to propose legislation and to implement the policies of the EU. The choice of its members is important in establishing the political leadership of the Union.

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Under the terms of the draft constitution, the president of the Commission will be nominated by the European Council by qualified majority; that nomination must then be approved by the European Parliament. The newly-elected president of the Commission will then appoint other Commissioners who will themselves be approved by the EP. The president will also acquire the right to sack and reshuffle the members of the Commission, as the prime minister may do with the cabinet today (I-26(3)).

New in the draft constitution is the requirement that the European Council should act "taking into account the results of the European elections" (I-26(1)). The European political parties could exploit this to nominate candidates for president of the Commission and turn the European elections into an explicit choice between them. If this should happen, the Commission will acquire a stronger political mandate, the EP will gain more influence over the Commission and its political programme, and the citizens will gain a clearer voice in choosing the leadership of the Union. Such a change will not happen automatically: it requires a conscious decision by the European political parties to exploit this opportunity.

The European Council will choose itself a chair to serve for a 2½ year period, as opposed to the six-monthly rotation among the member states as at present (I-21(1)). This new system is intended to enable the leaders of the member state governments to provide greater leadership, although it is unclear how much influence the European Council chair will have compared with that of the Commission president.

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