STEP 3. Which elements of the Parliamentary/fused powers model can be found in the EU?
However, the EU is not a ‘pure’ model of ‘separated powers’. Rather, it also retains some characteristics which are typical of ‘parliamentary systems’, where powers are fused and where the legislative and the executive are mutually dependent in terms of selection and removal. Let us consider the relationship between legislative powers and the European Commission as ‘executive’. Look at the picture below from left to right. Do the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers play a role in the selection or removal of the European Commission?
In this case, the answer is more complicated than what we have seen in the previous step. While the Council of Ministers does not play a role in the nomination of the European Commission and in its potential removal, the European Parliament does.
According to the article 14 of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament elects the President of the European Commission. More specifically, member states inside the European Council nominate a candidate for the post but this candidate must then be approved by the vote (absolute majority) of the European Parliament. If the proposed candidate does not obtain the required majority in the Parliament, the European Council must propose another candidate for the presidency of the European Commission within 30 days.
Generally, in proposing a candidate, the European Council should take into account the results of European elections. As said by art. 17.7 of the Lisbon Treaty:
Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission.
The statement ‘taking into account the elections to the European Parliament’ means that the proposed name should ‘come from’ the political group which obtained the majority in the parliamentary elections. For this purpose, during 2014 elections, for the first time the President of the European Commission was chosen through the so called ‘spitzenkandidat’ process or system of the ‘lead candidates’. This means that each political group in the European Parliament puts forward a lead candidate for the presidency of the European Commission and if obtains the majority of seats in European elections, its proposed lead candidate might become the new proposed President of the Commission. To give you a concrete example: if the center-right political group in the European Parliament obtains the majority of seats, the lead candidate it had proposed during the electoral campaign might be chosen by the European Council as ‘the name’ to be proposed as new European Commission’s president.
To have a better understanding of the spitzenkandidat mechanism, give a look at this video.