Built To Last: A Political Architecture for Europe
Monitoring European Integration Volume 12

Authors: Erik Berglöf (SITE, Stockholm School of Economics and CEPR), Barry Eichengreen (University of California at Berkeley and CEPR), Gérard Roland (University of California at Berkeley and CEPR), Guido Tabellini (University of Bocconi and CEPR) and Charles Wyplosz (Graduate Institute for International Studies and CEPR)

The European Constitutional Convention faces a daunting task in its final phase: to draft the most appropriate Constitution for the EU while avoiding lowest-common-denominator solutions. A new Report in CEPR's series, Monitoring European Integration (MEI) entitled "Built to Last: A Political Architecture for Europe", proposes a method for drafting the Constitution, inspired by economic principles. Europe's fundamental problem is that economic integration has preceded the construction of the relevant political institutions. Moreover, economic integration and changes in the rest of the world have now increased the benefits of centralizing some essential functions of government at the European level, such as internal and external security and foreign policy, while creating a case for decentralizing others. But the inadequate legitimacy, accountability, and efficiency of Europe's political institutions prevent the necessary reorganization. The Report therefore argues for an integrated set of reforms:

  • The Convention should focus on the long run. There will not be another opportunity to draft a Constitutional Treaty for the EU for many years to come. The Convention will be successful if it takes into consideration what the EU will be like in the distant future, and paves the way for a gradual evolution of its institutions to suit the long run needs. 

  • In the long run, a presidential system of governance is likely to be best adapted to Europe's characteristics and needs - and specifically to the need to expand the competency of the EU in the areas of internal and external security.

  • In a full-blown presidential system, the Commission would have well-defined executive powers, specified by the Council. Its President would be directly elected by the citizens of Europe and would also chair the European Council. 

  • In the short run, however, a presidential system is not politically feasible. A currently popular compromise proposes that the European Parliament elect the Commission President. But this means a parliamentary system. Once in place, this arrangement would preclude a future evolution towards a presidential system.

  • For this reason, an evolutionary strategy is safer. A short run compromise would be to have the Commission president elected by a college of country representatives appointed by national parliaments. The Council's influence on the Commission can be guaranteed through checks and balances. This solution would preserve the option of moving to a fully-fledged presidential model, complete with direct elections sometime in the future, while providing enhanced democratic legitimacy in the meantime. 

  • The Constitution should come into effect once it is approved by a qualified majority of member states. Member states that reject it should have the option of a more limited type of mainly economic association. 

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