Streamline commission, says EU team

The European Commission should be streamlined to boost efficiency, filter legislative proposals, stop overregulation and reconnect with citizens, according to a study likely to influence designated commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The study by former senior European officials and industry lobbyists says the EU’s executive arm, which proposes and enforces laws, needs a pyramidal structure to prevent disorganisation and mission creep.

The ideas have received a positive initial response from Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s likely chief-of-staff, and advisers to British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, a source said.

The Friends of the European Commission suggest reorganising the 28 commissioners — one per state — under five vice- presidents to better oversee and coordinate policy.

The five clusters would deal with external relations including trade and development; economic policy and budget; sustainable development, digital and competitiveness; territorial cohesion; and “citizens’ Europe”.

Those policy areas broadly correspond to the priorities set by EU leaders at a summit last week at which Juncker was nominated to head the EU executive for the next five years.

Under the proposal, four commissioners would report directly to the president, be responsible for communication, relations with other EU institutions, relations with national parliaments and administration.

The introduction of a liaison with national lawmakers would be a new feature, responding to demands from countries to give national parliaments greater power to block unwanted EU laws.

The president, his direct reports and the vice-presidents would meet weekly as a steering committee of the commission under the plan, modelled on Belgium’s “Kern” cabinet. At present, the full 28-member college meets every Wednesday.

EU officials say one reason for an inflation of European regulation is that each commissioner feels the need to put forward legislation to justify his existence.

The 2009 Lisbon Treaty provides for the number of commissioners to be reduced to 18, with national nominees rotating.

However, that was effectively abandoned when assurances were given to Ireland that it would always have a commissioner and change looks unfeasible.

Sources say Juncker favours making another attempt to streamline the executive by empowering vice-presidents to block proposals from commissioners in their cluster which they regard as excessive or unnecessary.


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