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How is a US president removed from office and does the EU have different rules?

The European Union and the United States have rules in places for removing presidents when things go wrong
The European Union and the United States have rules in places for removing presidents when things go wrong Copyright Jacquelyn Martin/AP2012
Copyright Jacquelyn Martin/AP2012
By Michael Daventry
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They lead two of the world's biggest political blocs, but what are the rules for removing the President of the United States and the President of the European Council?


The violence in Washington DC on Wednesday has prompted speculation that President Donald Trump could be removed from office as a reprisal for encouraging his supporters to storm the US Capitol.

The rules for removing a president from office are similar to those for unseating one of the most senior roles in another major political bloc — the European Union.

In the US, the procedure for stripping the President of the United States of powers is laid out by the 25th amendment to the country’s constitution, agreed in 1967.

Europe’s laws are outlined in the Treaty on European Union, most recently amended by the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, when the position of President of European Council — currently held by Charles Michel — was created.

The procedure is different for the president of the European Commission, the other senior role in the European Union. She would have to be removed from office by a vote of the European Parliament.

Euronews looks at the similarities and differences between the two global powers.

What must a president do wrong to be unseated?

United States: Nothing. The 25th amendment does not specify an offence or transgression that a president must commit before being stripped of his powers. (Section 4)

European Union: The treaty says the president’s term in office can be ended “in the event of an impediment or serious misconduct”. (Article 15/5)

Who decides?

United States: The ball is in the vice president’s court. He and the cabinet must inform the Senate and the House of Representatives in writing that the president is unable to discharge the powers of his office. The moment he does so, the vice president becomes Acting President.

European Union: the president’s two-and-a-half-year term in office can be ended by the heads of government of the EU’s member states, which make up the European Council.

Does it need to be unanimous?

United States: No. Only a majority of the 15 members of the cabinet who lead executive departments is needed to agree with the vice president.

European Union: No. A qualified majority of member states is enough.

Can the president reverse the decision?

United States: Yes. The president can inform the Senate and House of Representatives that he has no inability to discharge his powers. That declaration can be overridden by the vice president, but if he does, the Senate and House must decide between the two within 21 days.

European Union: No. If the leaders of EU member states vote to end a president of the council’s term in office early, there is no provision in the Treaty on European Union to reverse that decision.

Has it happened before?

United States: No president has been relieved of his duties against his will, but previous officeholders have used the 25th amendment to temporarily suspend themselves. George W Bush was the most recent president to do so — twice — when he received a general anaesthetic for medical procedures.

European Union: All presidents of the European Council have served out their terms in full since the post took its current form in 2009.

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