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A direct election of the EU Commission president is necessary

The powerful EU Commission does not really have democratic legitimacy. An election by European citizens is overdue.


Ursula von der Leyen gives a speech

Ursula von der Leyen: president of the EU Commission

Her appointment in 2019 never really had any democratic legitimacy.

(Photo: European Commission)


Let's start with a thought experiment: It is election year in Europe in the year 2034. The European citizens are called to elect the new EU Parliament. And thanks to a change in the European treaties, the President of the EU Commission will also be directly elected by the people.

For months, various candidates have been on the campaign trail throughout Europe, promoting their models for the future of Europe. Citizens must decide which candidate they like best and choose a political agenda.

On election day, one candidate prevails and tries to implement his plans and goals with the help of his party or coalition in the following five years.


The main EU institutions explained:

EU Commission

EU Parliament

Council of the European Union

European Council

Council of Europe


The power of the EU Commission must originate from the people

Back to the present: many people do not realise it, but the EU Commission is an extremely powerful body. It watches over an 16 trillion Euro economy, influences nearly half a billion people in almost all areas of life and is becoming more and more powerful every year. It is not for nothing that the EU is often referred to as an emerging superpower.

However, to this day, the allocation of power is not a proper democratic process. A scandal, really, when we are so worried about the rule of law in some EU states.

Every five years, the heads of state and government come together (European Council) and negotiate behind closed doors about the appointment of the EU Commission. The result is a (sometimes shabby) compromise that no longer has much to do with the actual wishes of European citizens.

This has to change. Candidates should campaign, present their goals and plans and then be elected by the citizens. The EU Commission has too much influence and power to be beyond the control of the people.

The Spitzenkandidaten

In fact, there are attempts to make the appointment of the EU Commission dependent on the election results.

The "Spitzenkandidaten" of the European Parties in May 2019: Zahradil, Cué, Keller, Vestager, Timmermans, Weber

The "Spitzenkandidaten" of the European Parties in May 2019

Left to right: Zahradil, Cué, Keller, Vestager, Timmermans, Weber


The European Parliament has been trying to introduce so-called "Spitzenkandidaten" for a long time. This was the case for the first time in 2014. The major European parties each put forward candidates for the presidency of the EU Commission. However, the European Council is not obliged to actually nominate these candidates. In 2019, for example, the system failed. Instead of the top candidates above, Ursula von der Leyen was nominated.

So it is obviously necessary to write direct election or election by EU parliament into the EU treaties. Besides a strengthened democracy, a direct election of the EU Commission President would also have other advantages:

A step towards a European identity

A direct election would probably strengthen a European sense of community. The change in the political system alone would force Europe-wide debates. Candidates would have to campaign all over Europe. They would have to travel around the different EU countries promoting their ideas. Many citizens would probably come into closer contact with European politics for the first time.

In addition, there would be a chance that really great personalities could be elected to lead the EU. Personalities who give Europeans a perspective. Personalities who rally the people behind them and create a cross-border sense of community. Especially with the century-long tasks, such as the war in Ukraine or the fight against climate change, this would be more important than ever.

Weakening of the European Council

Moreover, the European Council would be disempowered to a certain extent. We often face the problem that important projects and laws fail in the European Council - because individual countries want to push through their national interests or sometimes simply because Member States want to create pressure.

But if a Commission President is democratically legitimised for his projects and elected for his goals, individual countries can find it more difficult to block laws. The laws would have support by a majority of Europeans. National interests that harm all other Member States would no longer obstruct everything.


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