Sunday, July 20, 2014

Briefing on the new EU Commission President

The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission has been surrounded in controversy and conflicting stories in the UK.

What the European Commission is:
The European Commission is the EU’s civil service. It drafts proposals aimed at delivering the policy priorities set by EU member states like Britain, Germany, Spain or Poland. It’s independent and represents the interests of the European Union as a whole. It is small in size (smaller than Birmingham City Council) and it provides the policy expertise necessary to make a reality the political wishes of Prime Ministers and Ministers from around the EU. As well as working with member states it also works with the European Parliament, whose directly elected members (MEPs) are responsible for scrutinising and improving the Commission’s proposals. There are 28 Commissioners, responsible for different policy portfolios in areas where common action at the EU level is deemed to be more effective and efficient than individual member state actions at the national level. The Commission also represents the EU in international negotiations, like trade deals. It acts on the basis of a mandate given to it by national leaders in cases where speaking with one voice is better than speaking with 28 different voices.

What the European Commission is not:
A European Government, which imposes its wishes on member states.

What the European Commission President does:
The President gives political guidance to the Commission and leads the Commission's work in implementing EU policies. He or she represents the Commission in dealings with heads of member states and the European Parliament. The Commission President is also one of the EU’s voices in certain policy areas when dealing with other countries.

What the Commission President does not do:
The Commission President is not the President of the EU, he or she does not have executive powers nor is he or she the one who solely decides the direction the EU goes.

Who is Mr Juncker?
Jean-Claude Juncker is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, one of the most prosperous EU member states. For about 20 years he was a member of the European Council, the group that brings together Prime Ministers and Presidents from all member states. He was also head of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers and he presided over efforts to reform the way the currency union works after the financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that engulfed some eurozone countries. He is experienced in consensus-building and seeking compromise, a necessary skill if he is to find a way to accommodate the interests of the member states and the European Parliament when drafting EU policies.

Mr Juncker is not:
An ultra-federalist, out to get the UK. He does advocate closer European integration but does not believe that all member states need to go at the same speed. He was in fact the only candidate for Commission President who listed as one of his objectives finding a way to accommodate British interests and sensitivities.

 Based on a briefing  put together by the European Movement.
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