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2019. július 11.

Underrepresented at the core

With the upcoming conformation of the EU’s top positions and institutions — Brexit considered — CEE countries barely have any voice, despite their importance.

The recent conformation of and allocation in the top European Union positions and institutions have left Central and Eastern European countries severely underrepresented. When considering that this block of 11 Member States represent over 19% of the EU population, the lack of balance becomes hardly unnoticeable. Thus, read below CEEweb’s statement on this critical issue.

Central and Eastern Europe widely underrepresented in top EU positions and EU institutions

While the distribution of key positions within the European institutions should take into account a balance between geographical regions of the EU, this geographical balance for the top EU jobs is not being fulfilled for the coming period.

Although some of the actual votes are still ahead, currently zero out of the five top EU leaders — president of the European Parliament, European Commission president, European Council president, European Central Bank president and High Representative for foreign affairs and security — come from a country of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). While in the previous term at least one position was held by a person from a CEE Member State — the European Council president, Donald Tusk, coming from Poland — regrettably there will be none in the current term. Central and Eastern Europe will remain underrepresented in EU institutions and European leaders are failing to send a message that CEE matters enough in the Union.

The 11 countries of Central-Eastern Europe make up more than 19% of the EU’s population. These are countries with particular historical pathways and socio-economic challenges different in nature from those of their Western-European counterparts. While the days are gone when these countries were the ones economically stagnating — with economic growth rates now higher than the EU average — structural vulnerabilities remain beyond the economic developments. These include a dependence on EU funding, the state of public goods and services (including natural capital), value polarization in society, higher than average concentration of farmlands, centralization in governance, weakening and de-legitimization of Civil Society Organizations, and fraud and corruption related to public — including EU — money. While these countries are by no means identical regarding the severity of these challenges, with major differences by country, they are all affected to some degree.

Some of these challenges are rooted in or at least connected with the structure and nature of EU funds. All CEE countries are net recipients of EU funding and the next EU Budget (Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027) will be adopted soon with several open questions and previous suggestions for new types of conditionality, such as the rule of law. Thus, a better representation of these countries in EU leadership would have all the more been needed.

In face of the lack of CEE representation on the top level, the European Parliament has elected 5 Vice-Presidents from CEE, coming from three countries. Vice-Presidents may replace the President when necessary, including to chair plenary sittings. However, as for the European Parliament Committees go, only two of the twenty-two EP Committees are chaired by MEPs from the CEE region at the moment (i.e. the Industry, Research, and Energy Committee (ITRE), chaired by Adina Valean, from Romania (EPP) and the the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, chaired by Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová from Slovakia (ECR)).