European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in a full-length interview to New Europe Editor Alexandros Koronakis, highlighted the risk of institutional blockage in the scenario of conflicting visions between the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council under the current institutional arrangement.
Though the chances for a single president of the European Commission and European Council are slim this year, it is still an idea considered by outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The idea of one head leading both institutions was first suggested by Juncker at a joint Benelux proposal when discussing the Lisbon Treaty, and it is an idea he still thinks could work. The idea could fix a potential problem between the European Commission and the European Council – a clash between the heads of both European institutions. “If the President of the Council would instruct the President of the Commission to do [something]. And if the President of the Commission would, according to the Treaty, because he is not under the instruction from the European Council, refuse to do that, we would be in permanent crisis,” Juncker explained.
Juncker says the current system only works because he works well with the European Council President Donald Tusk. “We are twins, and we are acting together,” he said. “But if in the future there would be a permanent conflict between the two presidents, the whole system would be blocked. That is the reason why I was suggesting, as we were as Benelux back then, to merge the two functions.”
However, despite solving the possibility of serious, halting conflict between the two presidents, the proposal is politically difficult to facilitate and has its own challenges as well. “As a President of the Commission, you have to take initiatives, and make proposals. And as President of the European Council, you have to invent compromises. This could be, if done, to the disadvantage of the Commission,” Juncker explained. “Because then the general reflex, of the one who would be the single president, would be to make proposals which could be agreed spontaneously bu the European Council.”