MEPs assert their democratic rights

THE European Parliament has enjoyed a breakthrough in its struggle to turn the European Union into a more democratic beast. Having examined the team of individuals proposed by the member states to serve in the new Commission, MEPs forced the heads of government to make major changes.

THE European Parliament has enjoyed a breakthrough in its struggle to turn the European Union into a more democratic beast. Having examined the team of individuals proposed by the member states to serve in the new Commission, MEPs forced the heads of government to make major changes.

We found that some of the nominees had political convictions that contradicted the basic values of the Union or fell short of the level of political skill necessary to forge the strong, independent executive authority that Europe needs.

We also exposed certain conflicts of interest and even possible fraud.

Many people doubted that the Parliament had the guts to stand up to the Union's prime ministers in the European Council. Never again will it be possible for critics of the EU to claim that the Commission is made up of unelected bureaucrats. (Anyone less unpolitical than Peter Mandelson it would be difficult to imagine.)


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The political drama over the appointment of the new Commission has breathed democratic spirit into the debate about the new EU Constitution. The Parliament's large role in the drafting of the Constitution is well known.

It is no accident that MEPs are set to gain many more powers under the Constitution - including full budgetary and legislative powers over almost the whole range of EU activity. But all the EU's institutions will be rendered more efficient.

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And the European Union will have a greatly enhanced capacity to act effectively at home and abroad.

I hope Europe's leaders who gathered in Rome on October 29 to sign the Constitution truly understood the nature of the parliamentary revolution now taking place in Europe.

They will get a further example of it this week, when the Parliament will tie strings to its approval of President Barroso's new team, including laying claim to the right to sack individual Commissioners. MEPs will also insist on being involved in the design of the Union's work programme.

How well he responds to Parliament will determine the size of Mr Barroso's majority.

Andrew Duff is Liberal Democrat Euro MP for the East of England.

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