The next President of the European Commission, a power in the lands, will be a placeman of the majority on the European Parliament, writes Schadenfreude, our secret columnist in Brussels.
This comes about because under the Lisbon Treaty the European Council (Heads of State and Government), which appoints the new Commission President has to take account of the European Parliamentary elections. It will be the first time this rule has applied.
In hard practice this means that the only candidates that the European Council can consider are those proposed by the different political groups in the Parliament. The Political Groups exist officially and are governed by rules. The rules incidentally mean that the British Conservative MPs, who do not qualify to be recognised as a group*, have no candidate to propose.
The new Commission President, selected by the European Council , will therefore owe his provisional appointment to the parliamentary majority. He or she will face a second test as regards the team which he or she proposes. The nominees, approved by the Member States, have to be voted in by the Parliament, not individually but as a slate. If the vote goes against the team proposed, the procedure has to begin again.
In this sense the theoretical division of functions is false. The Commission could be said to represent technocracy, the Parliament democracy and the European Council the interplay of European politics.
But the Commission begins by being obligated to the European Parliament rather than being an independent actor.
*which also means that British Conservative MEPS are not eligible to be the “rapporteurs” or executive secretaries of parliamentary committees which scrutinise Commission proposals.