EU after the Lisbon Treaty: How to sort out the new institutions – EU President

One of the last posts was done live during the Lisbon informal EU Summit. I have done a bit of reflection in the period afterwards on how the institutional triangle will look like after the new Treaty comes into force. And it’s far from clear – something I guess every EU leader now realizes.

Let’s take the new function of the EU President (Kalypso Nicolaïdis & Simone Bunse write about it as well on Open Democracy). What is the story behind? For a long time people have been complaining that the EU doesn’t have a “number� to call in times of a potential world crisis. Let’s dub it “The Kissinger syndrom� (see here why). Supposedly, by placing someone on the top of the intergovernmental part of the EU (=the Council) we would have the problem solved. There would be a highly visible politician with a direct mandate from the EU member states and he/she would be sitting on equal footing with, say, the US President. Of course this is foolish. First, the US President is directly elected. Second, the EU President would still need to base his actions on the consensus among the 27 member states (remember Iraq?). Third, the EU already has Solana.

On the top, the Presidency of the Council is currently shared by all member states according to a formula. Every 6 months one country jumps in and takes the helm. Now, with the reform this would be lost and the permanent President would chair the EU Summits. The spotlight would turn away from a member state’s Primer Minister / President towards this new institution. Better? Doubt it.

Let’s see the last problem that the leaders will face when implementing this part of the Lisbon Treaty. Besides the purely “personal� problem (=candidates are of course lining up…), there will be the problem of how seriously should/will they really take the new post. This in EU terms means money and staff. What should the budget of the EU President be? Who will cede him staff? The Council Secretariat I presume will be quite unwilling to do so.

Last but not least, there will be even more numbers now: President of the Commission, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the new EU President. If this makes things easier…

I just think we are a bit obsessed about making life easy for the Americans, who can’t keep in memory few numbers. The EU is far from being simple, since it brings together currently 27 national histories. Why should we pretend and simplfy?

P.S.: Mark Mardell lists some good readings of the new Treaty.

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