There has been talk of a European President, as set out by the Lisbon treaty, and the front runners include Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, and Jean-Claude Juncker (hands up if you know who he is) as well as various foreign politicians that most of us have never heard of.
The post is for a two and a half year term elected by the various heads of states and governments. But we are missing an opportunity.
The European Union in the UK has a poor image – as indicated by the large vote for UKIP in the European elections and the Conservatives adopting Eurosceptism as a policy. In my view, this is because people don’t know much about the EU – and we always fear what we don’t know. If we had had referendums on Maastricht, Nice, the Euro and so on, we would have had an open debate over the years and appreciate the benefits. We would by now be playing a fuller active role, throwing our weight around, and UKIP would just be a dozen ex-Tories with loud voices. But I digress.
Why don’t we elect the European President? The electorate in all 27 countries could have a straightforward vote using the Supplementary Vote system (as in the London Mayor vote) to ensure the winner has a majority.
Advantage: the candidates would then campaign in all the countries – so we will know more about them – even Mr Juncker. The European people have a greater say in the EU. And with a mandate behind him/her the President can sort out some of the nonsense that the EU has to put up with.
But, I hear some people cry, surely everyone will just vote for their countryman and the President will always be German. Poor Mr Juncker (the Prime Minister of Luxembourg since you ask) wouldn’t have a chance. However under this theory everyone in the UK would vote for Tony Blair – which somehow I doubt.
Balloting 500 million people would take time but if we want everyone to be more Europhile, we must trust them with making these sort of decisions.