'Everything about us is open', says EU commissioner
by Daniel Mason
The European Commission has no problem of legitimacy but does have difficulty communicating to citizens – and the "double language" of national politicians and the media is partly to blame, Androulla Vassiliou has claimed.
Addressing the issue of the perceived democratic deficit at the heart of the European Union, Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said the EU's executive body was more open than national governments and held to account by elected parliamentarians.
"Certainly we need more Europe, but for me the big question is what type of Europe do we need, and what type of Europe do our citizens need," said the Cypriot commissioner, adding that the problem was "how do we communicate what we are doing in the right way".
Vassiliou, at yesterday's State of Europe event run by the Brussels think-tank Friends of Europe, said questions had to be asked of how national politicians presented the EU to the public. "I see double language sometimes, and this is not fair. I see double language from politicians, and I see double language also from the media."
She accepted that the commission itself had communication difficulties, noting that "if we speak in a language the people don't understand, then of course they will doubt the legitimacy of the commission".
But she insisted it was a transparent organisation. "Are there any national administrations more open than the commission? Everything about us is open. Our agenda is a public document, our finances and the economic situation is a public document. No decision of the commission is applied unless it is co-decided by the elected members of the European Parliament and by the national ministers in the Council."
Vassiliou said she agreed with the idea pushed by JosÚ Manuel Barroso, president of the commission, and others for his successors to be elected from one of the political parties in the EU parliament. She also said she "did not object" to suggestions being put forward for a more direct election of commissioners themselves.
But she added: "I do say once again on the way commissioners are appointed – they are subject to scrutiny from the members of the parliament and I think a three hour interrogation is not an easy thing."