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An Elected European President?

CANTERBURY – Earlier this month, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso delivered his annual State of the Union address. But, like many recent events related to European affairs, the speech received little media coverage, and went unnoticed by most Europeans.

The little attention that the speech did receive focused on Barroso’s call for “a democratic federation of nation-states.” But Barroso, who had not previously been known as a European federalist, was not merely fiddling around the edges of European law. Rather, he invoked federalism to show that European integration is already moving decisively in that direction.

More significant was Barroso’s call for European political parties to nominate candidates to succeed him in the 2014 parliamentary elections. The European Council would consider the parties’ suggestions when appointing the next Commission President.

While the largest Europarties – the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists – have presented presidential candidates in the past, a Europe-wide electorate had never before been explicitly linked to the filling of this appointed position. Indeed, although Europarties are relatively well developed, they have yet to resonate with voters, who remain unconvinced of their relevance, given that the locus of electoral politics in the European Union remains at the national level.