An EU government with an EU President should be created, says German finance minister

On 16 May the German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that the European Commission should develop into an EU government and that the Union needs a EU president (article by Honor Mahony on EU Observer available here). He believes that the Union needs a central government and a common finance policy in order to be more integrated. This would be made by wider citizen participation and the people shall elect the president of the European Commission, which shall develop into a new EU government. It is in the German minister’s view that the EU has a long-term responsibility to create an effective tool to deal with crises e.g. the eurozone crisis, with Greece as a central factor. The lesson that should be learned from this current crisis is that finance policies need to be harmonised.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also of the opinion that the EU should transfer more power from national level to its institutions, including the European Court of Justice. She said in January that more powers should be transferred to the EU and not more money to the bail-out fund (article by Valentina Pop on EU Observer available here). Merkel believes that we can only strengthen our common currency if the member states harmonise their financial policies and should gradually give up more power to the EU. She identifies a problem where member states can easily escape financial responsibilities without EU making sanctions because of the lack of tools to enforce compliance.

One can understand that this discussion has arisen because of a long financial crisis within the Union. At the basis of the German finance minister’s proposal is the economic crisis and the objective is to increase the EU’s capability to deal with it effectively. However, its implementation would have serious constitutional and institutional implications which go beyond economic considerations. So it is important to think further and to discuss how such a reform could or should be done from a constitutional aspect.

In order for the EU to create a presidential system it must change the very structure of the EU as an organisation. Such a change must be made in the Treaty, which requires the consent of all the member states. This can be problematic. The Constitutional Treaty was rejected because the member states feared that their sovereignty would have been limited. Even if all the member states would agree, still other problems remain. Who should be able to become a candidate? Former heads of state? Politicians? Lawyers? Bureaucrats? The Commission today consists of unelected representatives and numerous bureaucrats. Shall the members of the Commission be elected as well? Can one believe that the member states will be able to agree upon these questions?

An agreement must be reached between the different member states on financial policies that need to be more harmonised in order to prevent economic crises in the future. Harmonisation has proved to be successfully effective in areas where problems need to be solved through a more uniform legislation. However, the best solution might not be to create an EU government with an EU President as the German finance minister suggested. The fact that one can never be neutral, since everyone has the nationality of one of the member states, is problematic. A solution could be to have a system where the office of the President rotates among the member states. The Commission today consists of bureaucrats, therefore it seems logical that a president of the Commission should also be a bureaucrat. On the other hand, Germany has suggested that the EU President should be elected by the citizens. Consequently, the President cannot be a bureaucrat but a politician. Three options occur for the Commission: it could be elected by the citizens, appointed by the President, or the existing appointment system can remain.

Schaeuble suggests that the ECJ should be given more power in the field of financial policy in order to impose sanctions, as this would be more efficient in solving financial problems. The possibility that the EU makes promises that it is not able to fulfil is a potential risk for a future crisis, as Angela Merkel claims, and the Union must be able to assure enforcement in order to ensure compliance.

It is not likely that the member states will come to an agreement due to the problems identified above. It is also unlikely that they will agree upon the transformation of the Commission into a government. It seems clear that the member states are not yet ready to limit their sovereignty to that extent. This was the reason why the Constitutional Treaty failed. It is unrealistic to believe that the member states are ready to give power to an EU government and an EU President. A more logical solution is to start with a harmonisation of the member states’ financial policies and to extend the ECJ’s jurisdiction.

Amelie Edgren, Stina Haglund, Lina Olsson

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About eulaworebro

Örebro Universitet (Sweden)
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3 Responses to An EU government with an EU President should be created, says German finance minister

  1. Marijela says:

    While it, among other, is not likely that the member states will agree upon the transformation of the Commission into a government yet. It is not unrealistic to believe that the member states would be “ready” to give even more power to the Union in the future, in order to establish an EU government with an EU president. The current situation in the European Union, i.e. the financial recession, could potentially lead to the realisation of the previously mentioned suggestions that have been made by the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble. Hence, to create a central government with a president could be seen as a solution, by the member states, to the current issues that the Union is facing. What is unrealistic though is the thought that the establishment of an EU presidential system could actually function in the long run and be a solution to the economic crises.

    The establishment of the previously mentioned suggestions that have made by Schaeuble, would lead to more problems than it potentially would solve. The decision making process would fore sure be made less difficult, who would however take the decisions that in the end affect the entire Union? Most likely a politician or a lawyer from one of the bigger member states, e.g. Germany or France. To create an EU government with an EU president would basically lead to the fact that member states gradually give away most if not all of their sovereign powers to a EU government, in which the bigger member states have the power. Due to the democratic deficit these potential developments would contribute with, the establishment of a presidential system in the EU would consequently lead to the fact that the Union itself would breach one of its fundamental values, i.e. democracy (Article 49 TEU). The aim with the EU is to foster economic cooperation and through that keep peace between the countries (Article 3 TEU), if the European citizens however are deprived of democracy and their own identity the only thing the European Union will be left with is nationalism and violence.

    The more logical solution would, as the authors of this blogpost asserted, be to harmonise the financial policies of the member states. Hence, in order to solve a problem one has to fix it the right way and not just dig an even bigger hole which could lead to even bigger adversities.

  2. LC says:

    The German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble believes that the Union needs a central government and a common finance policy in order to be more integrated. This would be made by wider citizen participation and the people shall elect the president of the European Commission, which shall develop into a new EU government.” There is a willingness to cope with economic crises such as that experienced recently.
    It would be difficult to harmonize financial policies of the Member States because they did not initially the same budget, debt management is different and spending priorities that are not the same. In addition, a financial point of view, the European Central Bank must remain an independent institution, has a role important in terms of financial policies.
    Regarding the transfer of competence to the EU, the problem is always the same. States are reluctant when it comes that losing some of their sovereignty. So coordination is difficult.
    Obviously, the EU needs a stronger body able to enforce and punish bad financial management. But financially penalize a State like Greece for example, is it really the right solution?
    Create a presidential system, requires a modification of the treaties and the consent of all States. Find a President capable of representing any Union. “A solution could be to have a system where the office of the President rotates among the member states.”

  3. Samiya says:

    Some Europeans argued that the EU should be re-established into a government – similar to those in national states. One of this is the German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Schaeuble argues that the commission should be made into a government and that it should elect a president. The main argument for this reasoning is, according to the German government, that the Union needs a central government in order to get more integrated and to be strengthened. A good point is that the Germen government wants to maintain the democratic aspect; they have suggested that the president should be voted by the people and they also argue for larger citizen participation. Another agued that is quiet understandable is the fact that the Union is facing a lot of problems, both regional and international problems. The process of decision making is at the moment going slow due to the different institution, if there was an government the decision making would be more effective.
    On the other hand I can see why German of all the member states are those that are suggesting this form of authority. German is one of the first member states, besides that it have the largest population in the Union – this companied gives them a lot of power. If a government would be established automatically they would have a huge role in the decision making process. However, I do understand the argument that a government would lead to a more effective way of taking decisions
    Another important aspect is the sovereignty of the national states. If a government would be established that would automatically mean that member states would have less independency. I personally believe that this proposal would be hard to fulfill, many Europeans already oppose the Union due to the fact that it takes away a lot of the states sovereignty. Additional to this one has to keep in mind that Europe is composed of 27 different countries, with different cultures, different politics and different agendas. A central government would therefore be hard to establish at the moment.

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