Liberal British MEP Andrew Duff has proposed legislation for 25 of the European Parliament’s 736 members to be elected on a pan-European list. This in itself would not be revolutionary, but it would be very interesting if, as suggested, it were combined with the idea of heading these lists with potential European Commissioners. President of the Parliament Jerzy Buzek had suggested last year that Commissioners-to-be should be elected at the head of lists.
This would make a direct link between a Commissioner and European elections. It would also to some extent justify something I otherwise think is absurd: having one Commissioner per country (to campaign in). Finally, it might encourage the election of charismatic and powerful people to the European Commission. Right now perhaps half of Commissioners are non-entities and feeble compromise candidates without either a mandate nor any real political existence.
One has to imagine these list-heads/Commission candidates actually debating issues before European public opinion, taking positions, winning or losing based on them, and then attempting to fulfill their democratic mandate. I see something like Dominique Strauss-Khan or perhaps Tony Blair (“Socialists”) duking it out with José Manuel Barroso (Christian Democrat) on international television.
In short, that the EU would actually have democratic politics. It might not work – perhaps there is no “demos”, no European public opinion due to linguistic and cultural divisions – but I certainly think it is worth trying. And, in fact, divisions within Europe are not necessarily as severe as those within much poorer multiethnic, polyglot democracies such as India or South Africa.
Tory MEPs Ashley Fox and Daniel Hannan were quick to oppose the move. Always harping on about the EU’s democratic deficit, quite rightly, they predictably are against anything that might actually rectify it.