Federalists want next EU chief chosen from elected MEPs
The liberals in the European Parliament are pushing for the 2014 EU elections to be held in May instead of June, in order to provide enough time for the next Commission president to be chosen from the ranks of newly-elected MEPs.
Last October, MEP Andrew Duff (ALDE; UK), told EurActiv in an interview that Guy Vehofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, would be "very pleased" to appear on the first-ever transnational list in the 2014 European elections in order to revive his chances of becoming the next president of the European Commission.
Last March, MEP Andrew Duff has tabled 'federalist' proposals to enable future EU treaty revisions to be made with a four-fifths majority of member states, in a bid to bypass the UK's 'referendum lock' on any further treaty amendments.
Andrew Duff (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; UK), the Parliament's rapporteur on proposals to introduce the first transnational lists in the next European elections, said the next European Commission president should ideally be chosen in July.
Duff outlined his proposals on Tuesday (19 April) after the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee overwhelmingly backed a report proposing an overhaul of European elections, three decades after they were first held in 1979.
The Liberal Democrat MEP wants the next Commission president to be selected from the ranks of newly-elected members of the European Parliament.
One of the major novelties backed by the committee is to set aside 25 parliamentary seats for candidates elected from Europe-wide lists presented by European political parties.
Under the proposal, voters would be able to cast votes for a so-called "transnational list" of 25 MEPs as of the next elections in 2014, in addition to traditional national lists.
The transnational list would be identical throughout the EU's 27 member states, with the objective of creating the conditions for the emergence of a Europe-wide democratic space.
The transnational list would encourage European political parties to become fully-fledged campaigning organisations, Duff said, describing the proposed changes as "an important step for post-national democracy".
The 25 candidates in the transnational list would likely be leading European politicians or celebrities from other walks of life, helping to give the election campaign a wider following.
ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstdat is known to support the idea and is highly likely to appear on the list (see 'Background').
But before that, the European Parliament would have to approve Duff's proposal in plenary, with a vote likely to take place during its June session. EU member states, meanwhile, are yet to react to the idea, which could prove controversial in countries with a strong Eurosceptic tradition, like the UK and the Czech Republic.
Asked by EurActiv to set out his expectations for the June vote, Duff admitted that "a lot of discussion" with the Parliament's political groups was still required. In fact, Duff had initially planned to pass his proposal in May.
He also said the proposed changes would not imply a transfer of competences from member states to the EU institutions, and would therefore not require a referendum in the UK.
The UK parliament passed in January a law making it necessary to hold a referendum on any future EU treaty changes involving transfers of power to Brussels.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament blasted Duff's report.
"Once again federalist MEPs from Labour and the Liberal Democrats are trying to force a European identity onto us. This kind of nonsense is the reason why people are turning against the EU," said Ashley Fox, the group's spokesman on constitutional affairs.
"At a time of economic austerity the last thing the British taxpayer wants to pay for is an extra 25 MEPs elected across Europe plus the cost of a European electoral authority to oversee the process. European elections are complicated enough without an additional ballot paper," Fox added.