Trust in EU institutions is very low. Proposals on institutional reform go into the right direction, Telička said

Last week, the European Commission presented a number of steps to make the work of EU institutions more effective, improve the connection between the EU and its citizens and increase their trust in the EU. 

“Today, trust in EU institutions is at a record low. And while this phenomenon is not limited to the EU level, there is little doubt that we need to address it,” Vice-President of the European Parliament Pavel Telička said. He explained, “I appreciate that the Commission is trying to stimulate this debate.” In his view, the EU still lacks certain democratic elements, even though the European Parliament has increased its power in recent years. “We need greater involvement of voters at the European level by giving them actual choices” Telička added. 

The Commission has focused on the principle of the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process, in which the leaders of the European political parties compete for the position of Commission President. This system was already used in 2014 and the Commission wants to continue it for the election in 2019. However, some practical issues still need to be resolved. Political parties should choose their lead candidates earlier, ideally by the end of 2018. In this way voters can better analyse the different political programs and make up their minds. “I welcome this proposal. However, in the past election the leading candidates have only appeared in certain countries. In others, including the Czech Republic, they were not able to steer up a real debate. That needs to be changed,” Telička said.

In addition, the Commission puts the idea of transnational lists back on the agenda. Creating a transnational constituency could be one way to distribute free British seats in the European Parliament after Brexit. “I appreciate that the Commission keeps transnational lists alive. Under the right circumstances, joint candidates could bring European-wide issues into the debate and thus strengthen the European dimension of the election" Telička explains.

The composition of the European Commission could also change. Currently, the College of Commissioners consists of 28 members, one from each Member State. The question remains whether it would not be more effective to reduce this number. “A smaller number of Commissioners would mean more efficient and easier management and less bureaucracy. It would also allow a more balanced distribution of portfolios. Today, some of the areas of competence must be artificially created leading to proposals that are completely unnecessary,” Telička said, “the number of Commissioners should be definitely reduced and replaced by a rotation system. In this way, a Czech Commissioner would have much greater influence in a smaller Commission.” According to Telička, this step would also help to remove the connection between Commissioners and the countries of origin, reflecting the original idea of the Treaties.  

The Commission also endorses the possibility of a double-hatted President, one person holding the offices of President of the European Council and President of the European Commission. “The principle of a double-hatted President is interesting, but at the same time controversial. This change would help to overcome the constant competition between the two posts and speculation over who actually runs the EU. The question is whether it is not more efficient to simply abolish the post of President of the European Council,” Telička added.

“We also need to remember that while institutional reforms are an important element, European policy-makers have to focus on delivering results in order to regain trust. Even the most innovative ideas are of questionable relevance if they cannot be put into practice. The EU must not create expectations that can never be fulfilled. Otherwise, trust in the EU will undermine even more,” Telička said.

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