Monty Python vs the Democratic Deficit

One way or another, we shall end up with the European Constitution—or, at any rate, something very like it. This may seem an extraordinary thing to say. After all, the French and the Dutch rejected the constitution. Opinion polls in Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic show public opinion is against ratification. In Britain, almost no serious analyst believes that the referendum can be carried. Why, then, am I so confident that the constitution will be implemented? Because that is how the EU works. When Denmark voted against Maastricht, when Ireland voted against Nice—and, for that matter, when the markets voted against the Exchange Rate Mechanism—the EU’s response was to carry on regardless. There is no Plan B in Brussels; Plan A is simply resubmitted over and over again until it is accepted.

The same thing will happen with the constitution. Indeed, it is already happening. One of the most contentious provisions in the constitution is the creation of a European criminal code, complete with a European Public Prosecutor, a pan-European magistracy and the further harmonisation of justice and home affairs. Much of this agenda was launched at the end of last year by the 25 interior ministers before a single country had yet ratified the constitution that authorised it.

Similarly, even before the constitution had been signed, let alone ratified, judges at the European Court of Justice had indicated that they would treat the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a justiciable document. This may sound innocuous enough, but it will open huge new areas of national life to the rulings of the European Court, from family policy to employment law.

Last May, a bill was launched in the European Parliament establishing a European diplomatic corps (or “European External Action Service” as it is coyly called). While the constitution provides a legal basis for such a development, the existing Treaties do not. But Members of the European Parliament have come up with a radical argument to get around this problem. The fact of the signing of the constitution in Rome by the 25 Heads of Government, they say, imposes on the Member States a duty to implement it. In other words, never mind the referendums; never mind public opinion; we shall go ahead anyway.

Then again, this is how the EU traditionally operates. People speak of the “democratic deficit” as though it is a regrettable accident. It is not: it is an integral part of the project. The patriarchs of the EU, Monnet and Schuman, understood from the first that their scheme for the merging together of Europe’s states would never survive if it had to be periodically referred to the national electorates. So they carefully vested supreme power in the European Commission, a body which, being unelected, was insulated from public opinion. Again and again, the EU has simply extended its competence into a new area, and then, years afterwards, regularised that extension in a new treaty. Thus the voters are presented with a fait accompli.

The trouble is that this way of working has created in Brussels a distrust of the electoral process. I often hear, especially from German colleagues in the European Parliament, the word “populism” used to mean what I would call democracy: that is, the readiness of politicians to recognise the wishes of their constituents. To many colleagues, however, European integration is not only desirable, but inevitable. It therefore follows that public opposition is merely an obstacle to be overcome – a bump on the road to a fixed objective.

We literal-minded Anglo-Saxons take the more simplistic view that no means no. For us, the reference point is not Hegel, but Monty Python. “This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It has expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace!”

Alas, the Euro-elites have invested too much in this process to allow a little thing like democracy to stand in their way. One way or another, they will get their constitution. If formal ratification is impossible, they will simply use the existing treaty structure to implement the Constitution’s contents.

When there is a “No” vote in one of the member states, it never occurs to the Commission or the European Parliament to respect the verdict. Instead, they demand better information, more education, a clearer explanation of why integration is a good thing. I am reminded of Brecht’s lines:

Wäre es da
Nicht einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein Anderes?

(Would it not be easier
if the government
abolished the people
and elected another one?)

This attitude is, of course, precisely why people keep voting “No” in the first place.

Europe: au 'non' de la patrie!

To Mr.Doney
Eureka! I finally succeeded, thanks to your support!

To Mr. Outlaw
I'm living in an big 'old European country where the European Community-idea has been created by politicians in post-war era. But if Europe here might be in people's minds it is not in the majority of their hearts. People here speak their own language(and or their regional ancient languages and dialects) and are not even tempted to change that. Why? because they have very strong but natural nationalist feelings. For them (and maybe for other member states), if Europe exists, They are the centre of it all.
They can maybe agree with a European Army, a European Currency and a European Supreme(they can understand this word though) Court, but only if it is under control of their Army Generals their Central Banker and their Supreme Court Judges. Of course they can agree with with common economics and tax law as long as it is based on their 'social model'(if you invert these words, they can also understand that).
Sure, I'm slightly caricaturizing but I think you get the picture.
So how to become a real United Europe with only this one example of 25(soon 27) different member states.
Of course I don't have the answers to all that but what I do know is that we will have to be very patient(hope not 30 years) until the oil prices, suicide bombers, tsunamis and hurricanes will show our real identities.
Because whatever Europe, it will have to be a Union in Diversity (with the British driving on the left side, the Germans driving fast and the Italians nervous)because that's what makes Europe(or maybe doesn't make it at all). Anyway, Mr. Outlaw, if we're not that patient we could always move to the States where they had all that 'from bottom to top'-construction already and maybe we'll meet eachother there!

to confort the American people:

Portugal is burning for over two months now. Since a week or so some European member states start sending some support. The President of the European Community is Portugese!

Sorry guys, I don't see my

Sorry guys,
I don't see my post on the screen. I must have done something wrong. They
should change the internet into Minitel.

The last post was a John

The last post was a John Fleming-one. Forgot to change the Anonymous-thing.Sorry!

Mr. Gudmundsson, I realize

Mr. Gudmundsson, I realize that it is impossible what I ask. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to be deeply embarrassed by the general disinterest in the European project by the general populace. A European Project that - together with NATO, admitted - has given us 60 years of peace, abolished a plethora of currencies and created a 451-million strong free trade zone.

When you look across the globe, you see the same trend towards integration everywhere, from Latin Americas Mercosur over NAFTA to Japans attempts to form a bloc against China. The latter is already a bloc of its own, and India is following.

I sincerely hope that in 30 years there will be ONE Europe with ONE President, ONE Parliament and ONE judiciary. The European Project right now is like a skyscraper built halfway. It makes no sense to keep it like this. If Europe wants to count in tomorrow's world, we must be ONE BLOC, economically, militarily and politically.

Mr. Doney brings up the argument of the USA. Well, sorry for shooting yourself in the foot Mr. Doney, but the Americans had exactly these discussions in the late 18th century. The 13 states all had a petty army, petty politics, petty currencies. Then, as now, people who wanted to keep it like it was were making their arguments. Had the States not unified, they would never have become the hyperpower it is now.

And speaking of the States... you guys all say Europe should become a loose confederation. I know of only one confederation which managed to leave a footnote in the history of humanity. that confederation was called the CSA. It was soundly beaten by a Federation. The USA.

Mr. Doney, I admire the UK very much and am immensely grateful for the sacrifices by British soldiers to liberate my country, Belgium. But you should realize that the days of "Britannia rules the waves" are over. We Europeans should all stick together. And no, that does NOT mean losing ones "identity". Just ask a Texan.

Ouch! My foot!

Mr. Doney brings up the argument of the USA. Well, sorry for shooting yourself in the foot Mr. Doney, but the Americans had exactly these discussions in the late 18th century. The 13 states all had a petty army, petty politics, petty currencies. Then, as now, people who wanted to keep it like it was were making their arguments. Had the States not unified, they would never have become the hyperpower it is now.

What is it about being a hyperpower that turns everyone on? The British have been a hyperpower. In fact, THE hyperpower. And let me tell you, it ain't a lot of laughs. Now the Belgians want to be a hyperpower. Are you ready for the sacrifice? Sacrifices of people, money, matériel... Not to defend yourselves, but to impose your will on others.

And we do need to defend ourselves. There is no sign that the Europeans are prepared to make the commitment to do that. It's not a little luxury item to be added on after the USE has been created. It should be the FIRST priority of a superstate. The fact that it isn't shows that the USE-philes are not taking this hyperpower thing at all seriously. Switzerland takes defence more seriously than the USE.

So I believe that for the time being we (the Brits) should continue to shelter under the rather leaky umbrella held aloft by the 800 kilo gorilla the other side of the water, keep as much of our personal liberty as we can snatch back from those who want to remove it, and try to have a good time. If you lot want to be a hyperbloc power thing, that's great. But don't kid yourselves as to what you are letting yourselves in for.

(Look at that! I've ended a sentence with TWO prepositions. Winnie would be proud of me. Up with me he definitely would have put.)

Bob Doney

If the people of the EU, or

If the people of the EU, or any part of it, decide to become one state then that is of course their choice - that is if they will have a say on it. But I can tell you one thing for sure, Iceland will never join such a state or even the EU as it is today.

Long Live the USE!!!

I fear that in this case - oh well, in pretty mcuh every case anyway - the opinion of the average John Q in Europes streets does not count.

The time has come to question the ability of the average European to vote. I mean, ordianrly people understand jack shit of the European Project; why then should they be allowed to have a veto.

Don't get me wrong. Imho, they should have a right to vote, but ONLY after they have taken a basic test proving they understand what is at stake.

I understand it, and what Europe needs to survive is further integration towards a UNITED STATES OF EUROPE. There is no other way. It's that or the gutter.


what Europe needs to survive is further integration towards a UNITED STATES OF EUROPE

Yes, Mr Outlaw! Ask the poor folk of New Orleans what they think of a federal state and whether they feel safer as a result. And the Americans can at least claim to all speak the same language!

So when our Thames Barrier breaks and half of London is under water, are we going to wait for Brussels to send dinghies? Perhaps Mr Mandelson should be given this brief. At least he could send us some of his stock of pullovers and trousers.

Back later... I'm just off to Tescos to buy 5,000 bottles of water and 1,000 tins of corned beef. Unfortunately they don't sell rifles.

Bob Doney

Democracy with reservation?

Do you realise just how undemocratic this is what you're saying? You're actually claiming that people should have a democracy but with certain reservation - that they realise what is at stake each time they vote. And who is to decide when people have lived up to this condition for being able to vote? You? The European Commission? How undemocratic can you get? No wonder you support the EU - unless this is just ment as a sick, sarcatic joke.

I can't tell you how happy I am to live in a country that is not a member of the EU and will probably never join it - Iceland. We have never even gone as far as to apply for a membership of the EU and not for no reason.

I can watch the EU from a distance and make fun of it, but unfortunately the people living in those countries which are already members are not in as good postion to as I am.