The European Commission has always been the object of debates and analyses as to what extent the European Union (EU) political structure is democratic, since the structure of the Commission and its relations with the European Parliament have been regarded by many scholars as the main reasons why the EU suffers from a “democratic deficit”.
After the global financial crisis broke out, measures taken to cope with the implications of the euro area debt crisis and to prevent another potential crisis have renewed the debates on democracy at EU level, in particular on the European Commission’s role in the new European economic governance. Why has the European Commission been a part of debates on a “democratic deficit” in the EU? The answer to this question is complex and many-faceted. Because the first aspect of this question is related to how the European Union and its executive body Commission can be defined; Is the Commission a suigeneris body of sui generis organisation? or can the Commission be compared with a government in the member states as the EU is becoming more like a state? It can be argued that the EU is becoming more like a state due to the continuous European integration process; nonetheless there is not a clearcut answer on which scholars agree to the question of how exactly the Commission can be defined or whether it should be a government in the conventional meaning of the term. For example, S. Hix points out that the Commission may be defined as sui generis through stating that “the Commission is neither a government nor a bureaucracy, and is appointed through what appears to be an obscure procedure rather than elected directly by the votes or indirectly after a parliamentary election.”1 While F. Laursen underlines the similarities between the Commission and a national government by expressing “to a certain extent, the Commission can be compared with a government in the member states. It takes political initiatives, it proposes legislation, it has a bureaucracy at its disposal, it gets involved in policy implementation.” The second aspect of this question is related to the democratisation of the European Union. In this context, the question of how the president and members of the Commission should be appointed/elected for a more democratic Union has led to political and theoretical debates so far, and many scholars argue that the democratisation of the European Union through the gradual increase of power of the European Parliament over the European Commission has caused politicisation of the Commission. The Treaty of Lisbon brought about further politicisation of the Commission by defining the role of the European Parliament in the nomination of the Commission President explicitly.
Published in Political Reflection Magazine Vol. 3 No. 3