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President of the Council

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

One of Declan Ganley’s talking points on his return to the campaign was his objection to what he called the “unelected President of Europe”. The position is usually referred to as such by those critical of the new post. The position is in fact titled the President of the European Council. It replaces the rotating presidency held by the head of government of the each of the states for six months. Its job is to chair the meetings of the Council of Ministers.

The Lisbon Treaty will create a 2½-year term with the same function. It will be a more high-profile role, but they will have no policy agenda. There would be nothing for them to campaign on in any popular election that Mr Ganley desires. During the Convention which drafted the text of the Lisbon Treaty, Valéry Giscard D’Éstaing was describing what the role would in effect entail. The word “Président” is used much more in French than it would be in English, so for the only time, he used an English word, “c’est le mot anglais – chairman”.

But why this assumption that any government representative must have a direct democratic mandate? The Taoiseach could in Ganley’s terms be described as unelected, as could Britain’s Prime Minister or Germany’s Chancellor or most of the heads of government in Europe. Our representatives in the Dáil elect the Taoiseach, just as our representatives in Europe elect the Presidents of the Commission, of the Parliament, and as would be the case under Lisbon, of the Council of Ministers.

More absurdly, Mr Ganley even decried the fact that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will not have a mandate from the people. While some countries, like France and the United States, might elect their head of government, no country elects their foreign minister.

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