Letter: EU's Sir Humphrey

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I beg you to reconsider your idea of directly electing Europe's chief bureaucrat (leading article, 15 January). A future Santer waving a "direct mandate from the people of Europe" in the faces of Council and Parliament would be a sight to behold.

Let us not get bamboozled by the US here. In their original constitution, it was the President's job to be chief bureaucrat - the "executive officer". To make sure the bureaucrat did not become a demagogue, the constitutional founders said he was to be not elected but appointed - by a weighted voting system of the state governments, as the EU Council appoints the President of the Commission today.

When direct election crept into the US system during the early 19th century, it did not exactly encourage a spirit of public service and a humble demeanour. If you really want a future Santer to start thinking he is "the" President instead of the Sir Humphrey he should be, by all means elect him.

Please keep the ideas flowing, though. I am sure I am not the only Europhile applauding your search for better mechanisms. Such as no fixed period of office for the President of the Commission so the Council can correct an unpopular mistake more quickly and with less embarrassment.

BOB WHITEHOUSE

London N7

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