The European Commissioners have an ill defined status and a poor perception from the European public (State representatives or a Supranational Government body?). All this explains the difficulties encountered in the decision making process and the competitive race between countries to install their own Commissioners on the Council. We should bear in mind that in legislative matters, the council has no autonomy from its member states.
It is imperative that the European Union Council reviews its voting methods and abolishes the principle of unanimity.
The European Commission:
The improvement of this organization would send a strong political message to all citizens of the Union. The European Commission is often considered by the citizens to be all powerful and totally disconnected from the real problems that they are meant to deal with.
The first problem is a legal one : according to article 213 of the treaty “the members of the Commission shall carry out their duties in a fully independent manner” and “each member state undertakes to respect this principle and not seek to influence members in carrying out their duties”. The fact that we are far from these grandiose expressions, is demonstrated by the race for Commissioners seats.
The second problem is institutional: article 219 of the treaty stipulates that voting should be collegial but it is taken by a simple majority. Consequently, any increase in the number of members does not create any obstacles in the decision making process. The real obstacle is the cumbersome decision making process which must be improved.
The third problem is administrative: the enlargement of the European Union to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe begs the question of how to increase efficiency without revising the whole administrative set-up. One could propose the streamlining of the European Commission to make it work eventually as a federal Government. With a President, a Vice President and several Commissioner Ministers responsible for different portfolios. This is the ultimate goal which requires us to agree urgently on a European Constitution, despite the disastrous results in the 2005 referendum.
The Lisbon Treaty permits us to revive the idea and to provide solutions to the problems discussed above, resulting in a bigger and better Europe.
The Council of the European Union:
A major reorganization of the European Union Council with the abolition of unanimity in the voting of the 27 member states seems an obvious necessity in order to facilitate decision making.
Even if voting is often avoided, by the efforts of the Presidency of the Council, to find compromises between participants. It is extremely difficult to find an agreement between two member states who are completely opposed to each others ideas. Without the introduction of a qualified majority voting system, the situation will worsen with the arrival of each new member state into the Union. The Treaty of Lisbon allows for these “operational challenges”. The problem is clear: how can member states pass from a decision making process based on unanimity to a system of qualified majority voting where influence would be eroded and decisions taken without the approval of some states?
In the case of a simple majority vote, each state has one voice. In the case of unanimous voting, the decision is passed if there is agreement by all member states. One may ask the question about re-determining the weight allocated to member states if a qualified majority voting system were introduced. The big question would be about how many voices to allocate each member state. We can highlight the demographic criteria (already present in the current calculation) which help small states like Luxembourg, Belgium etc... In order that small states do not become second class members by the reduction of their voting weight, we should return to the principle of Democracy, that is to say : one State = one voice.
We must not lose sight of the fact that reform, with regard to qualified majority voting, should not be limited to revising the current rules of implementation but should seek to broaden the scope for change. The Europe of 27 and its recent expansion would be easier to manage.
Already, with reference to four important subjects, the question of qualified majority voting was discussed by the European Council in Féria in June 2000.
Initially with reference to a group of subjects relating to the internal organization of the European Union ( appointment of members to the court of auditors, appointment of the General Secretary of the European Union Council).
Secondly, to those areas concerning the ESDP, the drawing up of International agreements and the problem of Intellectual property rights.
The third group, concerns measures which touch upon the functioning of the internal market. (Market access and unpaid activities, taxation and social problems, problems of discrimination, double taxation and tax evasion).
Finally, there is a group of problems concerning the “Internal space“ of the European Union (The rights of citizens to circulate freely and to live in any member state, the allocation of visas, asylum and refugee rules, immigration problems and legal co-operation between member states on civil issues).
We see the difficulties that the 27 have in taking decisions on so many subjects (some of which are sensitive). Once again, should we not adopt, just as we have proposed to the Commission, a logical re-organization? The Lisbon Treaty provides us with the elements to improve the efficiency of the European Union.
To go further than the Treaty, one should go back to the equation: One State = one voice. This is a simple and democratic proposal. Why not suggest a Chamber of Nations representing the States, with each member state having an equal number of representatives, irrespective of the size of the State (Similar to the Senate in the USA). The Council of Ministers would become the Chamber of Nations. This transformation would call for the creation of a European Constitution.
We should prepare the transition of the Commission to a real European Government with a President, Vice President and Ministers. The President would be elected by direct Universal Suffrage and would be head of the executive with the power to dissolve the first Chamber. The Parliament would require two Chambers, one to represent the citizens and the other, the States. The first “The Chamber of Citizens” similar to the current Assembly in Strasbourg. The second, representing the States and called “The Chamber of Nations” having an equal number of representatives irrespective of the size of the State.
This ground breaking work and the formidable challenges involved in creating a European Constitution would force Europe into the Twenty First Century with the participation of all its citizens, thanks to modern communication systems such as the Internet. This collective participation could launch the beginnings of a veritable European Society.