The Lisbon Treaty, which is the basic charter (i.e. its Constitution) of the new EU state, stipulates that the parliaments of the 27 provinces are obliged to “contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union.” It is their legal obligation to further primarily the interests of the Union, rather than those of their own people.
Earlier this week Michel Barnier, the French member of the European Commission, explained to the Paris newspaper Le Figaro that “the European Commission is the EU’s Prime Minister.” Many Europeans think this is a metaphor, but, unfortunately, it is to be taken literally.
The European Commission is, as Barnier said, “a collective Prime Minister bringing together 27 countries which are united in their destiny.” The Commission is chaired by Jose Manuel Barroso from Portugal. His title is “President of the European Commission.” For the time being, each of the provinces still has a member in the Commission, but the number will be reduced to two-thirds the number of provinces from 2014 onwards. The Commission represents the Union, not the provinces. The current 27 commissioners are appointed for a five-year period by their respective governments, i.e. the governments of the 27 provinces. They do not represent these governments, however, and remain commission members even if the provincial government is replaced by another one.
The Commission is not only the executive body of the new state, but also its legislative body. There is no separation of powers in the EU.
Mr. Barroso heads the Commission and as such is the human face of the “collective Prime Minister.” Since institutions need a face, it would not be wrong to describe him as Europe’s Prime Minister.
Baroness Cathy Ashton from Great Britain has been appointed Foreign Minister of the new state. Her exact title is “High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.” By law, the High Commissioner is also the Vice-President of the Commission. Lady Ashton is also the Brit in the Commission. Her status is special because she has not been appointed by her provincial government, but, as High Commissioner, has needed the support of all the 27 governments. When the foreign ministers from the 27 provinces meet, she chairs their meetings. Since the British foreign minister is also present, there are two citizens from the British province in the room, though in her capacity of High Commissioner, Lady Ashton does not represent this province but the Union as a whole.
The new state also has a person whom we call its President. Herman Van Rompuy from Belgium has been appointed to this position. Van Rompuy’s exact title is “President of the European Council.” As the Commission is the collective Prime Minister of the new state, the European Council should be seen as the Union’s “collective President.” The Council is the institution where the heads of government of the 27 provinces meet. The Council is chaired by Mr. Van Rompuy. He has been appointed by the governments of the 27 provinces and, like Lady Ashton, has needed the approval of all 27 of them. Unlike Lady Ashton, though, Mr. Van Rompuy is not a member of the Commission. The province of Belgium has its own Commissioner and it also has its own representative in the Council, namely the Prime Minister of Belgium. Mr. Van Rompuy is just the President of the Council and nothing else. He also represents the EU in a ceremonial capacity.
It is not clear yet whether the EU’s Prime Minister (i.e. the Commission, presided by Mr. Barroso) or the EU’s President (i.e. the Council, presided by Mr. Van Rompuy) will yield most political power in the new state. That will depend on how strong a political figure Mr. Van Rompuy will be and how much direct political influence he wants to exert. The general expectation was that, if the Presidency had gone to a high profile politician, such as Tony Blair, the President would have taken the political lead of the EU, at the expense of the Commission. Mr. Barroso is not a particularly strong figure.
However, whether Mr. Van Rompuy will act to reduce the influence of the Commission is far from certain. Van Rompuy is a European federalist who wants to limit the powers of the provinces (the 27 EU member states) and enhance the central powers of the Union. Allthough the President (i.e. the Council, presided by Van Rompuy) is the body representing the provinces, it is likely that Van Rompuy favors more power for the Commission, which is the central body in Brussels. Though Mr. Van Rompuy is not a member of the Commission, many see him as the Commission’s man in the Council. He is a stronger political figure than Mr. Barroso, but, paradoxically, will use his influence to prop up Mr. Barroso and the Commission at the expense of the Council which he chairs.
Mr. Van Rompuy’s home province is Belgium. This province itself is made up of subjugated nations, the most important of which is Dutch-speaking Flanders. Though Mr. Van Rompuy is a Fleming himself, his political aim has always been to undermine feelings of Flemish identity and to boast Belgianness. There is little doubt that he will do the same on the European level. In a recent interview with the Dutch weekly Elseviers (Nov. 7), President Van Rompuy stated: “I am a European [because] the European idea is an antidote for Flemish nationalism, an antivenin against the Flemish Movement.” Van Rompuy opposes provincial nationalism and movements to strengthen provincialism and provincial identity. He considers the latter to be venom in need of antivenin. The new president is a centralist, who favors federal authority over “venomous” provincial authority (i.e. national sovereignty).
Apart from a President and a Prime Minister, the new EU state also has a Parliament. The latter, however, has no legislative powers. The only power it has is to reject the annual EU budget proposed by the Commission and to veto the appointment of members of the Commission. Hence, the Parliament can veto the appointment of Mr. Barroso, Lady Ashton, and any other Commissioner. It cannot veto, however, the appointment of Mr. Van Rompuy as EU President.
Our new state is not a democracy. Neither the Commission, nor President Van Rompuy have been elected by the people. By ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, the democratically elected provincial (formerly national) parliaments have voluntarily signed their national sovereignty away, reducing themselves to provincial institutions, and taking away from their electorates the right to democratically decide about their own future. In return for this national emasculation, the 27 provinces received a common collective Prime Minister, embodied by Mr. Barroso, and a common President, embodied by Mr. Van Rompuy.
If the peoples of Europe want to restore their sovereignty and their former democratic rights, the only option left to them is high treason, i.e. disloyalty to the state to which they belong (the European Union) by aiming for its destruction and dismemberment.
This, obviously, is illegal. As Prof. Anthony Coughlan has pointed out, in the new state “the rights and duties attaching to citizenship of the Union [are] superior to those attaching to one’s national [i.e. provincial] citizenship in any case of conflict between the two, because of the superiority of Union law over national [i.e. provincial] law and Constitutions.”
The primacy of the Union over the provincial, formerly national, entities goes against everything the peoples of Europe feel to be normal and natural. As such, it is fundamentally immoral. Having to chose between the legal loyalty owed to their new state, established yesterday, and the moral loyalty owed to their own provinces and their former national identity, the peoples of Europe now find themselves in the same conundrum in which the Flemings have found themselves since they were forcibly incorporated into the state of Belgium in 1830. Some, like Mr. Van Rompuy, will choose legal obligations over moral obligations; others will choose morality over the law. The question to be asked is whether a state that forces such a dilemma upon its people is legitimate?