Executive Selection in the European Union: Does the Commission President Investiture Procedure Reduce the Democratic Deficit?
European Integration online Papers (EIoP), Vol. 1, No. 21, November 14, 1997
18 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2002
Central to all democratic systems is the ability of citizens to choose who holds executive power. To reduce the democratic-deficit in the EU, therefore, the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties give the European Parliament (EP) a vote on the European Council nominee for Commission President. The effect, so many commentators claim, is a parliamentary model: where EP elections are connected via an EP majority to executive selection. However, these claims are misplaced. There are no incentives for national parties to compete for the Commission President, and every incentive for MEPs to abide by national-party rather than EP-party wishes. The result is that EP elections are 'second-order national contests', fought by national parties on national executive performance, and that the winning coalition in the investiture procedure is of 'prime ministers' parties' not of 'EP election victors'. Consequently, for a parliamentary model to work, either the EP should 'go first' in the investiture process, or the link between domestic parties and MEPs should be broken. However, if EP elections remain second-order, the only option may be a presidential model, where the Commission President is directly-elected.
Keywords: European integration, IGC 1996, European Parliament, European Commission, investiture procedure, Amsterdam Treaty, institutions, European elections, democracy, political science
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