Letter: EU under scrutiny

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Much of the reporting of the European Commission's resignation has misinterpreted the role commissioners are supposed to play. According to the "founding fathers" of the 1950s, commissioners were never meant to be ministers or departmental heads, in a system of "line management". Commissioners are members of a "college" and are collectively responsible, rather than individually so. It is appropriate, therefore, that they resigned en bloc.

What we have here is a clash between two organisational cultures: the model of the 1950s confronting the new demands of the 1990s. Tony Blair is right to demand a root-and-branch reform of the Commission, but his five-point plan does not go far enough. Steve Richards is correct (Comment, 17 March) to argue that the momentum is with far-reaching reform.

It is not simply a matter of imposing new financial systems on the Commission: the entire model has to be changed. This means reform of the Commission's organisational structures, its staffing and promotions policies, and the process whereby its heads are selected. Out with the institutional philosophy of Jean Monnet and in with new management values and practices.


Department of European Studies

University of Bradford