Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 October 2004
The European Council's personal, elected and mandated presidency is without a doubt one of the major innovations in the Constitution. It is also its most fought over and precarious novelty. Until the last stages of the Convention, the great majority of small Member States' representatives maintained staunch opposition against the idea. In the end, however, they all reluctantly dropped resistance in the face of the praesidium's intransigence, supported by the major Member States. With its new chairman, the European Council can be considered the great winner among the Union institutions. Apart from becoming a full European institution (Article I-18), it is getting structured leadership. Article I-21 of the Draft European Constitution states that the European President is to be elected by the European Council, by a qualified majority for a term of two and a half years, and cannot serve more than two terms. The President may not hold a national mandate. In order to understand this new function, one needs to look into its origin, powers, strengths and weaknesses.