Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2015

Publication Citation

22 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 269 (2015)


This article contextualizes the resilience of austerity in Europe, explaining it in light of the transformations in the EU system of governance. As the article maintains, since the eruption of the Eurocrisis, the European Council-the body congressing the heads of state and government of the EU member states together with its President and the President of the European Commission-has risen to the center of EU governance. In an intergovernmental institution such as the European Council, however, larger and wealthier states have been able to impose their preferences on other states-a development that is at odds with the anti-hegemonic nature of the EU integration project. To address this problematic state of affairs, this article proposes a targeted institutional reform: strengthening the President of the European Council. As this article claims, a President of the European Council endowed with its own executive powers and legitimated by a popular election could restore a balance between the member states and, at the same time, create a forum for democratic contestation of the policies of the European Union. The proposal to strengthen the presidency of the European Council builds on recent calls to redefine this institution as the presidency of the European Union as a whole. However, it faces several challenges. This article considers the following questions: 1) What are the advantages associated with the proposal to strengthen the European Council presidency and what powers should be attributed to the office?; 2) What electoral mechanism could be conceived to select the President in an asymmetrical Union of states and citizens?; and 3) What are the incentives-and is there a window of opportunity-to implement this reform? This article proposes ways to address these issues, opening a debate on a potentially fruitful constitutional reform of the EU system of governance.