24 June, 2008
"Who is your Candidate?"
On 24 June 2008, the UEF organized a public debate in the Eastman Building of the European Parliament on the subject “Who is your Candidate for President of the European Commission? The citizens have the right to elect the President of the European Commission”.
The debate took place in the framework of the UEF "Who is your Candidate?" campaign that aims at convincing the European parties to nominate their candidates for President of the European Commission. The President of the European Commission should no longer be chosen behind “closed doors” but instead, it should be directly elected by the European Parliament in accordance with the principles of transparency and participation of citizens.  

The panel of experts assembled Ms. Ulrike LUNACEK for the European Green Party (EGP), Mr. Daniel TANAHATOE for the European Liberals, Democratic and Reform Party (ELDR) and Mr. Andrew DUFF (ELDR), Member of the European Parliament. The debate was chaired by Mr. Philipp Agathonos, Vice-President of the UEF.

After his welcoming speech, Mr. Joan Marc SIMON (Secretary General of the UEF) gave the floor to Mr. Andrew DUFF, who addressed and introduced the issue in his key note speech.

The basic idea of every election was to point out alternatives to the citizens. The European Union had the problem of the “second-order-elections”, where national politics dominate the European elections.

The Lisbon Treaty refers to the European Parliament as the body who will elect the President of the European Commission. In case that there will not be a successfully elected candidate, the European Council has one month to nominate a new one. According to Mr. DUFF there were several possibilities to reach the majority of at the moment 393 votes. He could foresee coalitions between EVP/PES, or ELDR/UEN/EVP and PSE/ALDE/GUE/Grüne. Therefore it might be difficult to successfully elect one candidate.

In preparation for the Lisbon Treaty and concerning the process of selecting the candidates, the European Parliament dealt with two possible procedures of organising such a vote. One suggestion was to already organize the European Parliament elections in May 2009, so that the European Parliament has more time before the European Council nominates their candidate. The other solution was to have a formal consultation with a so called “informateur”, who should coordinate the proposals. This would also include the election process of the President of the European Council.

Problem was that in past few years the European political parties always were too weak to nominate political “champions” due to the fact that national parties didn’t and don’t want to decrease their influence on the European level.

For the post of the President of the European Commission it was said that the candidate should be a former Prime Minister. According to Mr. DUFF the availabilities of those candidates were quite small as some of them were simply too old or their image was damaged in the past. Moreover the candidates will have to organize campaigns where it might be difficult for them to accept a possible loss in their run for president.

The European parliament elections will be a great chance to advertise and to plead for a more democratic Europe. In the current system the European citizens don’t know what for a programme the European political parties will implement and who will be responsible for implementing this programme.

The results of the last EP elections and the decreasing participation of citizens in the EP elections forced us to ask how we could make the current system more attractive. Both, the Liberals and the Greens agreed on this during the debate.

Ms. Ulrike LUNACEK underlined that it was high time to discuss what will happen during the next European elections. The Greens will have again a common campaign while criticizing that decisions in the EU are taken behind closed doors. “As we don’t have a common European publicity, discussions on a trans-national level are very difficult”, said Ms. LUNACEK. Furthermore, the necessity of nominating a former Prime Minister might be a problem for this relatively young party. On the other hand, on ministerial level there could be plenty of good options. The Greens would nominate and elect a common candidate on their summit in March 2009. Ms. LUNACEK also suggested that, in case the Lisbon treaty is ratified, similar procedure should also be implemented for the Higher Representative, the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Council.

Mr. Daniel TANAHATOE mentioned that even the youth organisation of the ELDR, the LYMEC, already stressed that it is necessary to nominate candidates for President of the European Commission. The ELDR therefore was eager to nominate a candidate and could count on two former Prime Ministers.

Finally the UEF "Who is your Candidate?" campaign was, according to the attendees, a step in the right direction, giving citizens the possibility to identify how their votes will support a political programme, a certain candidate and even more important the information who will be responsible for implementing this programme.

For this reason the "Who is your Candidate?" campaign asks the political parties to nominate their candidates for the Position of President of the European Commission in good time before the European elections in June 2009.

For more information please visit www.who-is-your-candidate.eu.

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