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Factsheet: Enhancing the democracy of European Parliament Elections

European Commission - MEMO/13/202   12/03/2013

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 12 March 2013

Factsheet: Enhancing the democracy of European Parliament Elections

Under a recommendation adopted by the European Commission today, political parties should nominate a candidate for European Commission President in the next European elections (2014) and they should display their European political party affiliation.

Relevant Treaty Provisions

The Treaty of Lisbon enhances the role of citizens of the Union as political actors, establishing a solid link between citizens, the exercise of their political rights and the democratic life of the Union. Article 10(2) of the Treaty on European Union states that citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Article 10(3) of the Treaty on European Union states that every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union and that decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

The Lisbon Treaty has also enhanced the role of the European Parliament as a political actor – it now decides on the vast majority of EU legislation and has power over the entire EU budget on an equal footing with the Council. The Treaty also gives it additional responsibility: it elects the President of the Commission on the basis of a proposal by the European Council taking into account the results of the European elections (Article 17(7) of the Treaty on European Union).

Steps already taken

On 12 September 2012 the Commission proposed a Regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundation. The proposal aims at ensuring that European political parties can benefit from a more visible status and a more flexible, transparent and efficient framework for their funding. The Commission also proposed that European political parties would have to take, in the context of the elections to the European Parliament, all appropriate measures to inform citizens of the Union of the affiliation between national political parties and the European political parties (IP/12/951).

European Parliament Position

In its Resolution of 22 November 2012 on Elections to the European Parliament in 2014 , the European Parliament urged the European political parties to nominate candidates for President of the Commission, noting that it expected those candidates to play a leading role in the parliamentary electoral campaign, in particular by personally presenting their programme in all Member States of the Union. This resolution further emphasises the increased role that the elections to the European Parliament play in electing the President of the Commission.

Citation form the Resolution: "[The European Parliament] urges the European political parties to nominate candidates for the Presidency of the Commission and expects those candidates to play a leading role in the parliamentary electoral campaign in particular by personally presenting their programme in all Member States of the Union; stresses the importance of reinforcing the political legitimacy of both Parliament and the Commission by connecting their respective elections more directly to the choice of the voters".

Preparing the ground for enhancing the EU's democratic legitimacy

In a number of speeches and documents, notably in its Blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, in the Four Presidents Report 'Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union' and in the President's State of the Union Speech, the Commission has started preparing the ground for enhancing the Union's democratic foundations and therefore ultimately its legitimacy. A chronological overview follows.

Relevant Citations

"The European Parliament elections in 2014 are an occasion for a broad debate: should we move towards a full-fledged political union? Can we do it with all Member States or just with euro area countries? European political parties should develop their visions and propose candidates to become the next President of the Commission." – Vice-President Reding, speech on a New Deal for Europe, 14 March 2012.

"An important means to deepen the pan-European political debate would be the presentation by European political parties of their candidate for the post of Commission President at the European Parliament elections already in 2014. This can be done without Treaty change. This would be a decisive step to make the possibility of a European choice offered by these elections even clearer. I call on the political parties to commit to this step and thus to further Europeanise these European elections." – European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, State of the Union Address, 12 September 2012.

"Even in the EP elections, we do not see the name of the European political parties on the ballot box." – European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, State of the Union Address, 12 September 2012.

"We need a European public space where European issues are discussed from a European standpoint.” – European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, State of the Union Address, 12 September 2012.

"In these days of crisis I think it is more important than ever for us to have an open and honest exchange about the alternatives facing Europe today. Yes there are always alternatives, and it is the responsibility of democratically elected politicians to spell out and explain these alternatives clearly. So that people have a clear choice. In national elections. In local elections. And in the European elections in 2014." – Vice-President Viviane Reding, speech on a United States of Europe, 8 November 2012.

"The Commission wishes to engage in a reflection with the European Parliament on the appropriate measures, both regarding the parliamentary scrutiny and accountability of current policy making and with a view to the appropriate framework for the next elections of the European Parliament." – European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Letter addressed to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Martin Schulz, 12 September 2012.

"Finally, and without this being a point specific to EMU, a number of steps of significant importance can be taken to foster the emergence of a genuine European political sphere. This includes, in the context of the European elections of 2014, most importantly the nomination of candidates for the office of Commission President by political parties, as well as a number of pragmatic steps that are possible under current EU electoral law. Moreover, the proposal recently tabled by the Commission for a revised statute for European political parties should be rapidly adopted." – European Commission Blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, 28 November 2012.

"The creation of a new fiscal capacity for the EMU should also lead to adequate arrangements ensuring its full democratic legitimacy and accountability. The details of such arrangements would largely depend on its specific features, including its funding sources, its decision-making processes and the scope of its activities." "As all the proposals imply deeper integration, democratic legitimacy and accountability are essential to a genuine Economic and Monetary Union." – Four Presidents Report 'Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union', 5 December 2012.

ANNEX of Relevant Treaty Articles

Article 10 Treaty on European Union

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 14 Treaty on European Union

1. The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.

Article 17 Treaty on European Union

7. Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.

Article 223 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

(ex Article 190(4) and (5) TEC)

1. The European Parliament shall draw up a proposal to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.

The Council, acting unanimously in accordance with a special legislative procedure and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component Members, shall lay down the necessary provisions. These provisions shall enter into force following their approval by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

Declaration No. 11 annexed to the final act of the Lisbon Treaty on Article 17(6) and (7) of the Treaty on European Union

The Conference considers that, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties, the European Parliament and the European Council are jointly responsible for the smooth running of the process leading to the election of the President of the European Commission. Prior to the decision of the European Council, representatives of the European Parliament and of the European Council will thus conduct the necessary consultations in the framework deemed the most appropriate. These consultations will focus on the backgrounds of the candidates for President of the Commission, taking account of the elections to the European Parliament, in accordance with the first subparagraph of Article 17(7). The arrangements for such consultations may be determined, in due course, by common accord between the European Parliament and the European Council.


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