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Saturday, 19 October 2013

My Letters On Europe

There is one thing about the local paper - and that is the constant repititon of letter-writers from the UK Independence Party stream of political thoughts, with predictable letters. And I guess that as we approach the May 2014 European elections and the May 2015 general election, we will get more of the same.

So, here is my first reply (please note, neither of these have been published as yet):

Dear Sir,

Colin Hingston (letters, 16 October) asks whether there has been an election of the European Commission, and describes Jose Manuel Barroso and Baroness Ashton as unelected.

For the appointment of the Commission President (Mr Barroso) and the Commission Vice-President/High Representative of the Common Foreign & Security Policy (Lady Ashton), there is a two stage process.

Firstly, a candidate has to be chosen by the European Council - comprised of directly-elected Heads of State (for countries with a presidential or semi-presidential system) and Heads of Government who are accountable to their national legislatures (for countries with a parliamentary system).

Secondly, a candidate who is nominated by the Council can only take office if ratified by the European Parliament - which is directly-elected.

In addition, the Commission has to be ratified by the Parliament, and can be removed from office by the Parliament.

In 2010, the only people who had the chance to vote for David Cameron were the constituents of Witney. The House of Commons had no vote on whether Mr Cameron was to be Prime Minister or not, and a Prime Minister can chop and change their Cabinet without needing to ask the Ho├║se of Commons for approval.

If Mr Barroso were to leave office mid-term, the whole process would need to be repeated. We can compare this when there were mid-term changes in Prime Minister, such as from Baroness Thatcher to Sir John Major in 1990 or from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown in 2007. In neither case did the House of Commons have the chance to vote on who the new Prime Minister was to be, and these were simply internal party choices. A mid-term change of Commission President needs the European Parliament's approval, while a mid-term change of Prime Minister does not need the House of Commons' approval.

I have no doubt that UKIP - with its concerns about democratic deficits - would applaud any attempt to enable the House of Commons to chose the Prime Minister and ratify Cabinet appointments.

Changes mean that prior to the May 2014 elections, the main European groupings will select candidates for the post of Commission President, which the Council will need to take note of when nominating a President. Hence, when we vote in May, we will be indirectly indicating which named person we would like to see become Commission President. I am sure that UKIP would welcome this move to make the selection of Commission President more transparent and democratic, and the EFD group are entitled to select their own presidential candidate.

Yours faithfully,

Graham Pointer (Dr)

And the second:

Dear Sir,

I was intrigued to read Ralph Prothero's theories (letters, 19 Oct) about how EU law is made.

I was especially interested to see his idea that Herman van Rompuy leads the Council of Ministers - I am sure this news would come as a surprise to the Lithuanian Government, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, a legally distinct body from the European Council over which Mr van Rompuy presides.

Mr Prothero states "The Council of Ministers, which meets in secret, must take account before voting of the opinion of the EU Parliament,but can ignore that opinion. That is how British MEPs 'help make decisions' - by having their opinions ignored."

As he is no doubt aware, under the Treaty of Lisbon, the majority of EU laws are made by the "Ordinary Legislative Procedure", under which they require the support of both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. If they do not get the support of both, then the proposal doesn't become law.

Yours faithfully,

Graham Pointer (Dr)

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