Commission cool on European Council president idea

Thu, Jan 16, 2003, 00:00

The European Commission has described a proposal from France and Germany for a long-term president of the European Council as confusing.

France and Germany proposed the new post on Tuesday in a debate on the future constitutional shape of the European Union after the admission 10 new members.

Their plan also envisages bolstering the head of the European Commission, effectively creating a double-headed presidency in Brussels.

"We don't think we need two executives in Brussels with two different tiers of bureaucracy that would end up competing with one another," chief Commission spokesman Mr Jonathan Faull said.

"We don't think that is an intelligent way to reform the European Union with a view to making it more legitimate and understandable to its citizens," he told a daily news briefing.

Mr Faull rejected suggestions that the creation of the new post was inevitable because it had backing from both Paris and Berlin and said many member states shared the Commission's view.

Smaller EU states such as Belgium and the Netherlands are strongly opposed to such a Council presidency, fearing it would be dominated by big countries and would marginalise the Commission, seen as defender of equality among all members.

The Franco-German plan will be discussed next week at the Convention on the Future of Europe.