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Key roles; Barroso, Schulz and Council of Ministers presidency

The specification says you need to know the following about key posts in the EU.

  • The significance and influence of key posts and post-holders within the EU, including: the President of the Commission, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, the President of the European Council, the President of the Council of Ministers and the President of the European Parliament.

They’ve already asked about the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the President of the European Council so you can look at the mark schemes for that but her is an overview of the other three.

President of the Commission: The President of the Commission is seen as the face of the EU to the world but they are not democratically chosen and the calibre of the president is dependent on the choice of the Council. They are supposed to provide the vision for Europe over their presidency for example Barroso’s closer union/2020 vision and Delors single market. This is also dependent on the calibre of the individual, if the calibre is low/they are weak then it can lead to corruption as we saw under the Santer commission. Nations do not want a strong head so this usually means weak Presidents. The President is also seen as the ‘guardian of the treaty’, when commissioners such as Prodi are more concerned with helping their own country deal with domestic issues, they oversee problems such as Germany and France breaking the Growth and Stability pact. Because the commission is not accountable to anyone, responsibility falls on the President.

President of the Council of Ministers: This is a rotating 6 month presidency with the host country able to set the agenda for that period of time. The Lisbon Treaty reduced the importance of the presidency by separating it from the European Council. The lack of coordination between each successive six-month presidency hindered the development of long-term priorities for the EU. In order to rectify the lack of coordination, the idea of trio presidencies was put forward where groups of three successive presidencies cooperated on a common political program. Blair and Brown wanted to use Britain’s presidency to push the knowledge economy but they hadn’t realised that the discussion about Turkey had long been in the calendar for their presidency. Countries such as Spain used the presidency to buy fishing rights in Mauritania and the current presidency with Ireland is being used to reform the CAP and encourage the UK to stay in the EU.

President of the European Parliament: The current President is Martin Schulz, when the Council meets the President of the EP gives an address on the EPs opinions on the Councils agenda topics. The presidents signature is needed for most laws passed in Europe including the budget. The recent budget that Cameron so triumphantly claimed victory over, was a shallow victory as the EP has joint control and didn’t pass it. The President of the European Parliament is the only directly elected President in Europe, elected through the Parliament he/she does not have to come from the majority party, Schulz does not come from the majority EPP.