Whoever succeeds Jose Manuel Barroso as EU Commission President will surely want to press the reset button when it comes to connecting with Europe’s voters. After several years of gruelling economic pain Brussels finds itself being blamed for many of Europe’s problems.
Pro-European critics have accused Barroso’s Commission of failing in its main job of guiding policy. At the same time, rising eurosceptism across the bloc has resulted in many citizens failing to identify with the EU project itself.
Responding to such dissatisfaction has been a key campaign issue for the Commission presidency. For the first time in a bid to add democratic legitimacy voters have an inkling about who might get the top job, with candidates being chosen by Europe’s main political groups. In theory the candidate with the most votes becomes president. But it is not certain. The European Council, made up of the bloc’s 28 heads of state and government, can still propose its own candidate, though the final choice requires ratification by the European Parliament.
Since gaining extra power through the Lisbon treaty the EU-wide chamber has not been afraid to flex its muscles, most notably in 2012, when it rejected the international anti-counterfeiting treaty, ACTA, much to the annoyance of many member states.
Despite that, the parliament often plays second fiddle to the Council, especially in economic and budgetary matters where it has little say. Some question that state of affairs, with the parliament’s main political groupings demanding more power. However, such calls are likely to fall on deaf ears with the Commission certain to want to protect its role in shaping legislation.