22 januari 2007

The Democratic deficit of Europe.

How democatric is Europe is more than 80 % off all laws in every member state is the result of new European regulations? The regulations are decided upon by people that were never directly elected by the European citizens. Hence, private agendas at the national level are easier to pass and elite-bureacrats regulate every little detail of our lives.

The most compelling illustration is the way the so-called European Consitution is being pushed upon the European citizens. Not only is the text unreadable and much too complex, ratification is done through parlementary tricks, rather than following a genuine discussion and a union-wide referendum. If the politicians can create a Constitution of 10 pages with just the ground rules, and if they can't accept that such fundamental texts need to be solid and approved for by a compelling majority of the population, then we don't need such a so-called Constitution.

Why not take example of Switzerland? While small, it is a very diverse country. Nevertheless, it has known peace for over 150 years and it has prospered. Taxes are low and the goverment is small but effient. It is no coincidence that democracy starts at the level of the citizen. At the local level they are consulted for every important decision. At the federal level, they have had over 540 referendums with sometimes astonishing demonstrations of good sense and wisdom by the citizens. Switzerland is a real example of democracy at work and this is probably the reason the Swiss are not keen on joining the very undemocratic superstate of Europe.

Europe started well of after the second world war. We need to go back to the original goals: to create a unified territorium where people can live in peace, can move around with no barriers, can work with no barriers, can do business with no barriers, can create wealth and take care of themselves to live a happy and long life. Of course, this assumes we also have freedom of expression and that decisions are taken in a democratic way. This means that the citizen comes first and that he only delegates to a higher level what he can't do himself better. The result should be that at the European level not much is left to do, except removing all the barriers imposed by century old nation states and their short-sighted self-interests. What Europe does today is creating increasingly more complex layers of bureaucracy in domains where they shouldn't even be present at all.

The good news is that some politcians are aware of these issues. Below two strong statements. One from a former German President making the point, one from the Czech Central Bank.

Former German President criticises lack of democracy in the EU

In an article in Welt am Sonntag former German President Roman Herzog argued that the EU is becoming increasingly centralised. He noted that the German Department of Justice estimates that out of all the pieces of legislation passed in Germany between 1998 and 2004, 84% originated in Brussels. And as Germany's own constitution identifies the parliament as the “central actor in the shaping of the political community” he argued that “the question has to be raised of whether Germany can still unreservedly be called a parliamentary democracy."

He outlined a number of reasons behind increased levels of centralisation within the EU. First, he said, “European Union politicians are politicians” who actively seek to engage in law-making in whatever way possible. Secondly, the EU has served as an avenue whereby national politicians can bypass domestic opposition, taking the legislative “detour” via Brussels. Such was the case with German environmental law, for example. Thirdly, alliances and bargains in the Council usually mean that “package deals” are agreed upon. Fourthly, the European Court of Justice has a “systematic tendency” to rule in favour of increased EU power. He noted that the ECJ is obliged under paragraph 1 and 5 of the treaties to participate in the “implementation of an ever closer union”. In addition, he believes that, “EU policies suffer to an alarming degree from a lack of democracy”. He argued that one way to deal with the latter problem is to turn the European Parliament into a proper legislative assembly.

Herzog argued that the proposed Constitution does nothing to address these issues. Instead, a revised treaty must - first and foremost – demarcate competencies between national governments and the EU, and clearly identify where the limits of the EU’s powers should lie. He said that this was rejected by the drafters of the Constitution because they feared it would restrict the power of the EU, which of course, Herzog points out, is the very reason for a Constitution. Secondly, the EU must introduce a ‘guillotine’ principle, meaning that the time span within which a piece of legislation can be passed must be limited. Thirdly, member states must be left with the option to opt-out of and repeal legislation passed at an EU level. Law-making in the EU cannot be a one-way street. Finally, the tendency of the ECJ towards “creeping centralisation” must come to a halt. He suggested that an independent legal body should be created, run exclusively by the member states, which could overrule ECJ judgments.

Czech central bank governor attacks misguided euro rules.

In an article in the FT the Governor of the central bank in the Czech Republic, Zdenek Tuma, argued that the rules governing the euro are “outdated and counterproductive.” He said, “The ERM-2 might have made sense in a situation where monetary policies around western Europe were based primarily on fixed exchange rates explicitly or implicitly pegged to the D-mark. Today, such a system does not generate any benefits for most EU members.” He suggests the euro’s budget deficit criteria should be scrapped, and that the rules on inflation be updated. He concludes with an argument for more flexibility in the EU as a whole, saying, “All these examples illustrate a more general European dilemma. We need a stable legal framework, but all legal systems in history have evolved as the world has changed. Rules such as constitutions are and should be difficult to change. Others, however, have to be more flexible. There is little doubt that rules supporting policymakers' decisions belong to the latter group.” (4 January)

Source of articles: www.OpenEurope.org

1 Comments:

At 23/1/07 11:25, Blogger Flanders Fields said...

The proposed constitution and the behind the scenes imposition of it show that "creeping" centralization is not the goal of the promoters. It is a power grab designed for exclusive and overreaching control and designed to be free of constraints of democratic process. Mr. Herzog correctly analyzes the deficiencies. The proposed constitution appears designed to perpetuate power of the centralists and impose their will on the Federal states and people and is not a document to protect the states or their people from excesses of the centralized government.

 

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