So, last week the new European Council President was selected, after lots of secret discussions between the EU member state governments, and with the European Parliament and Barrosso having their inputs too.
There has been a lot of criticism of the secretive nature of this process, with some suggestion (even from Eurosceptics it seems) that the president should have been subject to EU wide election.
Firstly, it is – unfortunately – normal for intergovernmental decision making to be pretty secretive, whether in the EU or elsewhere. The most open EU insitution is the Parliament, while the Council processes are probably the most secretive.
Each EU government is, of course, elected, and can argue that this is what ‘representative democracy’ is all about – “you elected us to run the country and represent the country at EU and international level”.
Imagine we did have an elected EU president – this person would immediately have one of the strongest democratic mandates in the world, elected by an electorate of around 500 million people. How would they relate to the 27 EU member states – would they view themselves as more representative of EU opinion? Would they therefore create a strong push towards a more federal EU?
A second issue is what would actually happen during the election process? Would the outcome be viewed as more democratically legitimate than the current process? Or maybe it would be more like the Eurovision song contest – people voting for the candidate from their country and some friendly neighbours. For example, you could logically end up with a German president given that this is the largest EU country. Would this result be welcomed in other countries, or would it just create even more division? I can’t see the UK tabloids being very happy!