Are we still living in a democracy? As an elected politician I am probably expected to say that we are. But are we?
Two years ago, in January 2007, Roman Herzog, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, caused quite a stir when in an op-ed article (Welt Am Sonntag, 14 January 2007) he wrote that democracy in his country is virtually non-existent since the European Union (EU) has stealthily eaten away all the national parliament’s powers.
Mr. Herzog referred to a report of the German Ministry of Justice which pointed out that between 1999 and 2004, 84% of the legal acts in Germany stemmed from unelected EU institutions in Brussels, with only 16% coming from the German Parliament in Berlin.
Like Germany, Belgium is a EU member. In our parliament, we, too, are called upon almost every week to vote the incorporation into Belgian legislation of so-called “directives” emanating from the EU Commission. This is a mere formality. Parliamentarians all over Europe press the green button because the EU treaties oblige the 27 EU members states to incorporate the EU directives unchanged into their national legislations.
Hence, there are no debates about the directives and no alterations or amendments are proposed to the texts. Occasionally my party abstains from voting or we press the red button – a position we can take since we are not part of the Belgian establishment and are considered “extremists” anyway. But even we, I must admit, usually vote “yea”. The EU treaties demand it. The European Court punishes countries that do not oblige with hefty fines.
Inspired by Mr. Herzog’s calculations, I submitted a question to the Belgian authorities. They informed me that between 2000 and 2005, 1,395 laws were passed in Belgium, of which 551 were bills that incorporate EU directives into Belgian legislation. That is 39.5 percent. The ratio is increasing, however. While the figure was 31.3% in 2000, it had increased to 51.8% by 2005.
This means that a majority of Belgian laws emanates from the EU. It also means that only one single Belgian, namely Louis Michel, the Belgian member of the European Commission, has had a say over the majority of the laws imposed on all his compatriots. How democratic is this?
For my American readers I must point out that the EU directives do not pass through the European Parliament (EP). They come directly from the Commission, which is the EU’s executive. The EP, though elected, is not a proper legislative assembly; its only role is to have a say over the EU budget and the power to veto the appointment of European Commissioners. The real power lies with the Commission and the Council. The Commission consists of one member from each of the 27 EU member states, appointed by their respective governments. The Council consists of a representative of each government of the 27 member states. The Council tells the Commission what to do.
The English political philosopher John Laughland has called the EU “a cartel of governments, engaged in a permanent conspiracy against their own electorates and parliaments.” European integration favors the power of national governments over that of their respective parliaments. Laws in the EU are made by the governments and the approval of an elected legislative is not required since the treaties oblige the member states to incorporate the EU laws into their own national legislation.
“It is for this simple reason,” says Mr. Laughland, “that all establishment politicians, whether of Left or Right, are in favor of the EU. It increases their power and their room for maneuver. How much easier it is to pass laws in a quiet and secret meeting with your twenty-seven colleagues, than it is to do so in front of a fractious parliament where there is usually an in-built opposition.”
Mr. Herzog, who is not only a former President of Germany (1994-1999) but also his country’s former Chief Justice (1987-1994), sees it as follows: “Against the fundamental principle of the separation of powers, the essential European legislative functions lie with the members of the executive. And so the question arises whether Germany can still be referred to unconditionally as a parliamentary democracy at all, because the separation of powers as a fundamental constituting principle of the constitutional order in Germany has been cancelled out for large sections of the legislation applying to this country.”
This is true for the other EU member states as well. Democracy is in a deep crisis in Europe. People are still allowed to vote, but their elected representatives are powerless. The so-called “democratic” nations of Europe have become the political henchmen of an empire with global ambitions. And the voters resent it.
Hon. Alexandra Colen, Ph D, is a Vlaams Belang member of the Belgian Federal Chamber of Representatives. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Belgian Parliament and the chairperson of the Advisory Committee for Social Emancipation of the Parliament.
This article was first published at the website of The Hudson Institute New York