Mr. Manfed Weber, president of the EPP group, has made a comprehensive declaration on the eve of the EP vote on the new Commission (1).
Although centered on "the fight for a more democratic Europe”, this text looms much larger on institutionnal matters and, as such, might inspire some comments:
On the "Spitzen candidate"
It makes sense to nominate a President of the Commission who belongs to the leading post-electoral political party. This is precisely what the European Council did and will probablly do in the future. Should this candidate be chosen exclusively by this party ? This is a more debatable question. In any case, the present rules set by the Treaty do not legitimate such a bold shift of responsibilities. Besides, these rules provide for contacts between the two Institutions in order to facilitate an eventual “common choice”.
On the "right of legislative initiative for the EP"
Present Treaty rules entrust the sole Commission with this right - but Council and Parliament can (and do) influence Commission proposals. Actually, the European Council has abused of this influence and the EP has been less successful in its own attempts. The Commission should therefore, in the future, be more receptive to EP legislative suggestions and less obedient to Council dictats. But the Commission must, for obvious reasons entrenched in the EU political and legal sytems, retain its specific right and duty to initiate legislation.
On the "power of the EP to set the legislative agenda for the Commission"
This would run against the Commission’s independance and neutral stance. Even the European Council cannot (should not) set this agenda : the Treaty only gives it the right to set broad guidelines and orientations. But the Commission may - and does - take into account the majority views of the EP when deciding on its own priorities.
On the "powers of control and investigation of the EP"
The EP is entitled to control and investigate all matters relating to the implementation of EU legislation and most of all the use of EU finances. This includes monitoring acts both from the other Institutions and from governments. Actually, the EP has been rather active in this field for many years - but there is an obvious need for more agressive and determined action from its part - even it cannot dictate sanctions or remedies.
On the "need to concentrate Commission initiatives"
Subsidiarity should, in principle, be better complied with. Not so much for the satisfaction of public opinion as for achieving an appropriate balance between national and federal prerogatives. However, regulating the internal market often necessitates quite detailed legislation. Moreover, progress in some fields like taxation, corporation law, environment, etc …will inevitably translate in new - and often precise - EU rules.
On the "planned conference on the future of Europe"
The EP should engage rapidly - and take the lead - in the preparation of this conference and set its own priorities. It should not concentrate solely on an increase of EP powers but rather on achieving a better global governance of the EU. In particular, the EP should challenge the present domination of the European Council, insist on the limitation of national vetoes and make proposals for further progress in major fields suh as the Euro system, EU defense and security policy, EU enlargement strategy, etc …
Over all, "a more democratic Europe” would mainly benefit from a better and more active use of present EP prerogatives - while respecting the inter-instituionnal balance of powers set by the treaty. The Commission in particular should be regarded as an autonomous ally - and not a subjugated entity - in achieving european progress and couterbalancing ineffective European Council supremacy.
Jean-Guy Giraud 27 - 11 2019