After Barroso’s reappointment for a second term as president of the European Commission and having had the treaty of Lisbon finally ratified it is now time to define work-programs, assemble a new –and huge- European commission and start implementing the Lisbon treaty.
One of the novelties of the treaty is the change of a rotative presidency of the European Council for an elected position of 2,5 years mandate. The new president of the European Council will chair and organise the meetings and represent the EU in the international sphere. In a way, if we build a parallelism with a state the new president of the European Council would be the equivalent of a king whilst the president of the Commission would be more of a prime minister. However the definition of the position is vague enough in order to give the possibility to the future president of the European Council to grow into a kind of a president of the “European republic” in a more French approach.
In other words, the power relation between the president of the European Commission and the President of the European Council is not set and it will very much depend on the personality of politicians presiding either institution.
From the side of the European “executive” the personality of Barroso is known for its non-confrontational and servilist approach and experience has shown that in case of conflict the Commission has preferred to be a secretariat of the Council rather than following the will of the European Parliament. It is hence to be expected that in case a strong figure, such as Tony Blair, would be appointed president of the European Council, the European Commission led by its president would easily fall under the control of the most intergovernamental body of the union. Therefore, for the sake of keeping interinstitutional balance and maintaining right of initiative as well as the communitarian will it is important that a personality of the level of Jan Peter Balkenende is appointed as president of the European Council.
Balkenende has proven to have a diffuse personality, lacks initiative and, same as Barroso, is experienced in losing referendums (Netherlands 2005). As sad as it is, Balkenende might be the best candidate to chair the European Council: he won’t go beyond the treaties, he won’t step into others competencies, he won’t have progressive ideas to increase the power European Council and as a consequence he will leave space to a very crowded, confused, rather powerless and ambition-lacking European Commission.