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Open Letter to Member States and 

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                                                                   7 December 2008

David Heilbron Price



Dear Member State Delegations and Commission Members,

A lingering legal dispute can paralyze any presidency. For the United States the Constitution is the touchstone against which the eligibility of any would-be president is judged. The candidate has to be a natural–born citizen over 35 years of age.

In Europe, legality is judged against the Treaties. Europe’s most important presidency is that of the Commission. I write to pose one question: Why has the Council of Ministers in its 56 years of existence not introduced a fair,  open and democratic system to elect a Commission? This procedure should be accomplished in conjunction with the Commission itself. According to the treaties, impartiality remains the main criterion for the choice of its members. Originally the Commission also had powers to designate members known for their impartiality and experience. It could also co-opt a recognized, experienced European as a replacement member.

All Candidates for the Commission have by treaty law to be independent of governments and other interests such as lobbies and political parties. This requirement is in legal opposition to the recent trend to make the Commission a domain held exclusively for national politicians, not only retired (or disgraced) but often active politicians. As for one national per country, the Treaty of Nice makes it clear that each State can only have one nationally nominated member in the Commission for the transitory period of the great enlargement. After that it must return to its duty articulated in the founding treaty to reduce whenever possible the number of members of the Commission.

The proposals of the Constitutional and Lisbon Treaties would make the present illegalities even worse. Only candidates supported by political parties would be eligible. This would exclude 98 per cent of European citizens who are not card-carrying members of a political party. The secret selection of a Commission President behind the closed doors of political party headquarters would be an act of gross discrimination against non-political candidates of other professions. Previous Commission Presidents like Jean Monnet (business consultant/official), Walter Hallstein (law professor) and Etienne Hirsch (engineer) would be excluded. These were among the greatest defenders of European democracy and the rule of law.

Another important — and often forgotten --  factor is that the Commission must also conform to another of Schuman’s great innovations, the Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The present system does not conform to equal opportunity legislation. No advertisements about the vacancies are published in the Official Journal, nor is an impartial jury provided for judging all suitable candidates among 500 million citizens, as in all other publicly funded posts.

By law all mature citizens have a right to stand for the Commission as much as the treaties ensure all citizens have the right to stand as Members of the European Parliament or vote. The same goes for all members of the Consultative Committees. How should the Council proceed?

The Jury to choose the Commission should be the equivalent in impartiality and acumen to the Nobel Prize Committee. After full public discussion, Member States governments would nominate jury members. The Jury’s task would be to discern the most valuable personalities with potential for active service to Europe and to deal with world challenges. Schuman said the goal of the Community is peace and works of peace. A Jury having full public confidence would be able to receive nominations from the public or seek out competent but valued, non-egotistical candidates with a record of selfless service. 

For a further discussion about how the selection of a Commission should be fulfilled within the spirit and letter of the treaties, please refer to I would appreciate any comment about how the present untenable trends can be improved in the direction of treaty legitimacy and democracy.


Yours sincerely,


David Heilbron Price

Schuman Project

Copies to members of the Commission and 27 National Delegations