Plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose)
2014 is a year of change for the EU institutions. The elections for the European Parliament will be held on 22-25 May 2014 and the current European Commission will end its term in September 2014. New Commission officials should take up office shortly thereafter.
The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution of the EU and this is the first election since the Lisbon Treaty which conferred an enormous amount of power to the Parliament. The Parliament is now equal in power to the other branches of EU governance: the European Council (made up of national governments) and the European Commission (made up of appointed Commissioners).
The Parliament will also for the first time choose the European Commission President (from amongst candidates proposed by leaders of national governments meeting in the European Council).
The Commission President (currently Jose Manuel Barroso) is effectively the head of government for the EU. He oversees the college of Commissioners, one from each of the EU's 28 Member States and each of whom will be up for replacement. Candidates currently thought to be leading the race to replace Barroso include Martin Schulz (left of centre German), Michel Barnier (right of centre Frenchman) and Jean Claude Juncker (right of centre ex-Luxembourg Prime Minister).
The practical consequence of the forthcoming institutional changes is that a lot of draft EU legislation may be delayed or scrapped. For example, a draft Regulation on creating a Single Market for Telecoms is due for discussion in plenary session of the Parliament in early April. However, if it is not adopted by the time of the election, its future may be uncertain. Furthermore, Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, is the driving force behind the draft Regulation. It is doubtful that she will remain in her position in the new Commission and therefore the draft legislation may not have the necessary political backing to ensure its safe passage through the EU legislative process
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