Auteur: Valentina Pop
BERLIN - Member states should take decisions by majority voting, including in sensitive areas like taxation, instead of having a veto right capable of blocking attempts to harmonise rules across the EU, justice commissioner Viviane Reding has said.
"The veto right in the EU council has to be scrapped. Qualified majority voting should be extended to more policy areas, for instance taxation," Reding said during a debate with citizens in Berlin on Saturday (10 November).
During a press conference later, she admitted that her idea - which would require a change to the EU treaty - would be highly controversial for member states like Britain and Ireland, but also for her home country, Luxembourg.
"But the veto right is a matter of principle. I believe a big family can make it only if it pulls together and seeks common decisions. If 26 want something and the 27th blocks, it is not right," she said.
Renowned for her blunt statements and for not shying away from conflicts with EU leaders, Reding is one of the names floated for the presidency of the EU commission, when it comes up for grabs in 2014.
Several participants in the "citizens dialogue" believed the centre-right politician could be right for the job. A member of the German Social-Democrats, who requested not to be named, said "I would vote for her if Martin Schulz doesn't get the job."
Schulz is currently head of the European Parliament and widely believed to be the Socialist candidate for the commission job.
The commission chief is usually appointed from the political family that wins the most seats in the European Parliament, but it has to be part of a larger deal as other top EU jobs will also be for grabs in 2014: the head of the EU council, the bloc's top diplomat and the Nato chief. Political, gender and national considerations will all be part of the bargaining.
Reding's federalist beliefs and her combativeness may ultimately see her passed over for someone less controversial. "Member states would rather see someone who plays ball," one EU source told this website.
The Luxembourger will face a make-or-break test in her diplomacy skills on Wednesday when she tries for the second time to get an agreement among the 27 EU commissioners on a draft bill making a 40 percent gender quota mandatory for publicly-listed companies.
"It's not that it was totally rejected. Everyone agrees that something has to happen to put more women in top management positions. The opinions diverge on the method that should be applied," Reding said during the press conference.
She pledged to "take into account very seriously" the objections raised by several colleagues - including three female commissioners from Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
"Using a crowbar doesn't lead to any decisions in Europe. But when there is a big majority, one or two should not block," she stressed.
For the draft bill to be tabled by the commission, at least 14 commissioners have to vote in favour.