Reform #2: Political system (vol. 4) – European Presidential Council and the President of the Republic of the United Europe
In my previous articles, I covered the reformation of the European electoral system (see Reform #2 vol. 1) and the European Parliament (or EP, see Reform #2 vol. 2), and the introduction of the European Government (or EG, see Reform #2 vol. 3) as crucial elements of reforming the European political system, in which both the EP and the EG are predestined to enhance the principle of “more Europe less nation-state” in order to serve the general interests of all European. Despite the necessity of power transition from the member states to Europe, it is imperative to counterbalance the pro-European institutions with powerful pro-nation-state institutions, guaranteeing the proper representation and the sovereignty of the member states within the Republic of the United Europe (or RUE). In this volume, I intend to introduce the European Presidential Council led by the President of the Republic of the United Europe as the guarantors and protectors of the nation-states’ European interests – superseding the European Council.
The European Council
The European Council (or EUCO) is a fully recognised European institution (since the Lisbon Treaty), which’s main role is setting the general political direction of the EU by adopting so-called conclusions (the identification of issues and solutions). Although, the EUCO does not act as a legislating institution, it defines the principles of and decides on common foreign and security policy (e.g. international terrorism, relations with Russia, enlargement of the EU). The EUCO is formed by the heads of state or government of the member states and by the non-voting President of the European Commission. The President of the European Council (the office currently held by Charles Michel) has a mandate for two and a half years, which is renewable once.
It is in the EUCO’s authority to appoint its own President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the President of the European Central Bank; moreover, to propose a candidate for President of the European Commission, and to informally and indirectly influence police and justice planning, the composition of the EC, the suspension of membership rights, etc.
As far as I am aware, the only suggestions made so far related to the improvement of the European Council would degrade the role of the institution by turning it into a sort of upper house of the European Parliament (as discussed in volumes 2 and 3). That would be a huge mistake and could never be agreed on amongst the member states, as it would most certainly result in the nation-states’ total loss of political control on a European level. Therefore, I reject these theories, proposing a new one instead.
The European Presidential Council and the President of the Republic of the United Europe
In my proposal, the European Presidential Council (or EPC) is still going to be formed by the heads of state or government of the member states, but in the new formation, they can delegate envoys instead of themselves. The envoy has to be an elected representative in his or her member state as a precondition, and will enjoy the same rights and equality in the EPC (e.g. voting rights), except that he or she cannot be appointed to be President. Similarly to the EUCO, the EPC would remain rather informal, when it comes to legislation or decision-making (apart from proposing the President of the EP and appointing the Executive Board of the Central Bank of Europe), continuing to serve its duty of general political encouragement. As an important addition to that function, the most important and distinct role of the EPC is the selection of the President of the Republic of the United Europe (or President) from its own members, and forming the political advisory body to the President. In other words, the national leaders keep the President under a slight political pressure and control. By becoming the EPC, the EUCO might lose its current political weight as a collective body, but it also gains multiplied rights and powers by vesting its full potency into one person, whom it selects itself from its own ranks. It is essential to highlight that the role of the EPC can be fully understood only in unison with the function of the President of the RUE.
Referring to the values of democracy and legitimacy, many are eager to have a European president directly elected by the citizens of Europe. However, I find this theory rather unfair and even dangerous. Should the President of the RUE be elected directly, candidates of more populous, larger, and more advanced member states would almost certainly dominate the elections. Besides, all sorts of radicalism could find its way to the highest executive power of Europe with ease, unleashing mountains of disasters potentially. Therefore, I find it wiser to trust the EPC, whose members are elected officials with experience and expertise, to appoint one of their own.
Self-evidently, the President of the Republic of the United Europe must be a head of state or government in order to be an electable member of the European Presidential Council (as envoys do not count), meaning that the President elect is an elected official in his or her member state already – ensuring legitimacy. Should one of the candidates get the majority of the votes, the selection is over; if none of the candidates is trusted with a qualified majority, a second vote must be held, at which the members of the EPC must decide between those two aspirants, who received most of the votes in the first round. The selection of the President of the RUE is the exclusive right and main responsibility of the EPC, meaning that neither the EP nor the EG has a say in the process. Should the President-elect accept the office of Presidency, the resignation of his or her current office is absolutely mandatory.
The President of the Republic of the United Europe is the highest executive authority in the European superstate, whilst he or she is the commander-in-chief of the common European army and intelligence services, the most significant representative of the RUE abroad (outranking the Minister of Foreign Affairs), and the agenda-setter of European foreign policy. Every serious decision regarding foreign affairs must be approved and sanctioned by the President (e.g. declaration of war, entering or quitting a contract, diplomatic agreements). Additionally, the President has legislative initiative, approves the budget in every three years (proposed by the EG and accepted by the EP first), and can be granted with exclusive rights (power of attorney). In case of emergency (e.g. epidemic, state of war, natural disaster, economic crisis), the solutions of normalcy do not function. Extraordinary times demand a different type of leadership, but only as long as it is absolutely necessary (e.g. the institution of dictator in the Republic of Rome). For instance, in times of peace and prosperity, the member states and the EP enjoy extensive liberties, but in a state of emergency, these liberties shrink in favour of security. Should the three-quarter of the MEPs see it necessary, the EP has the rights to declare a state of emergency, granting the President absolute powers for a certain period of at least one, but of maximum twelve months.
The President of the Republic of the United Europe represents both the national and European interests, whilst co-ordinating them. The President and the Prime Minister have a tight working relationship, and are both authorised with executive powers. In legal hierarchy, the President outranks the Prime Minister, as the former can veto the decisions of the latter – once. The President of the RUE is a de facto branch of the nation-states within the executive branch of the European political system, whereas the PM of the RUE is the de facto branch of Europe. They shall work together as the Roman consuls did in the Republic of Rome; the President as Consul Maior and the Prime Minister as Consul Minor. The PM of the RUE is also the Vice President of the RUE at the same time, meaning that he or she is the acting President until the next President is selected, should the office be vacated unexpectedly.
It is crucial that the President of the RUE does not serve a limited term of office, meaning that he or she remains in office until his physical and mental medical conditions allow it or gets impeached (similarly to the Chief of Justice in the US). At first glance, it might seem to be the hotbed of tyranny, threatening the usurpation of ultimate executive power for unlimited time for one person. However, the President has no legislative power, as he can only start a debate, propose a law, and use its right to veto. It is my explicit opinion that the role and function of the office of Presidency – under sufficient parliamentary control – is the key to a successful, acting, and efficient European superstate. In terms of decisiveness, the undeniable success is to be seen in China and the US, with a significant difference that the President of the RUE is under a much stronger democratic control.
In the new European political system, the President is a legitimately elected figure, who passed several filters in order to be trusted with a wide-ranging executive power, whilst the office would not violate the principle of constitutionality or rule of law. This extraordinarily broad means of power will appear the most characteristically in issues related to foreign and defence affairs; in the means of domestic, economic, and financial areas will not be so remarkable. However, the most important tool to curb the President’s power is the right to call a motion of no-confidence (or political impeachment), which permits the EP and the EPC to force the President to resign.
Despite the broad executive power the President of the RUE enjoys, the European Parliament keeps the President in check as he or she can be impeached on a political basis, which is debated and decided by the EP. There are several ways to initiate it: via a referendum or petition (quarter of the citizens eligible to vote, from half of the member states), via the EP (third of the MEPs from three pan-Europarties), or via the EPC (half of the members). Should one of these methods be successful, the EP is obliged to hold a debate, and vote on removing the President from office (political impeachment). During the debate, the European Accountability Committee (or EAC, see in volume 2) has to prepare an official and professional legal report on the matter, which must be taken into account at the MEPs’ vote. Should the number of those, who support the removal of the President, not reach 50%, he or she can stay in office. Should the number of those, who support the removal of the President, reach more than 50%, but less than 67%, the EP can oblige the EPC to hold an open vote within their ranks, and decide on the President’s removal by absolute majority. Should the number of those, who support the removal of the President, reach 67% in the EP, he or she must resign, and the procedure of new selection must start. The President of the RUE enjoys political immunity in the first three years of the Presidency, ensuring political stability, but after that, the procedure of political impeachment can be initiated once a year from the same branch or in every half a year from different branches. In case of legal offence, the procedure of legal impeachment could be initiated, meaning the European Court of Justice – working together with the EAC – would investigate matters, present it to the EP, and then the MEPs would decide on the case.
The fact that political clashes do not happen only between different parties with different ideologies, but also between European and national institutions, make it necessary to establish a powerful executive authority, which is able and willing to guarantee that the nation-states cannot be bypassed in the European political system. It is important not to reduce the powers of European institutions (EP and EG), but to counterbalance them, meaning that both branches and levels can work to their best efficiency, whilst none of them gets uncontrollably powerful. The European Parliament and the European Government must be allowed to be powerful enough to work for the greater good of all European, being the bastions of Europe. On the other hand, the European Presidential Council and the President of the Republic of the United Europe must ensure that this work does not get derailed into the submission of nation-states, whilst also channelling and guiding the European superstate’s general direction of politics, being the bastions of nation-states. This is an enormous guarantee the nation-states can find in the EPC and the President.