Saturday, 24 November 2007

EU no Leviathan

“To dismantle that bloated, anti-democratic monstrosity in Brussels, I hope. To save the Europeans from themselves, yet again. They never learn.”

Some agitated minds seem to be ill at ease with the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Union in general, but the reasons given are not always very illuminating.

Is there something fundamentally wrong with the EU’s founding values: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities?

According to the new version of the Treaty on European Union (Article 2), these values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

What do they find obnoxious about the aims of the Union (Article 3), such as freedom, security and justice, free movement of persons, the internal market, combating social exclusion and discrimination, promoting social justice and equality between women and men?

Do they know that competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States (Article 4), that the limits of Union competences are governed by the principle of conferral and that the use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality (Article 5)?

Are they aware of the fact that the Reform Treaty is mainly about improving the inner working (procedures) of the European Union, not about the attribution of new powers?

What about the unelected officials as lawmakers?

The Lisbon Treaty (Article 8a) states that the functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

Perhaps the culprit is here: The Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate initiatives to that end. The President of the Commission is proposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of persons to be members of the Commission, which shall be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament (Article 9d).

Should the civil servants of the Commission, the judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union and officials other Union institutions be elected by popular vote? Are civil servants and judges elected by the citizens in, for instance, Britain?

The Commission does not make laws, it makes proposals. Laws are enacted by the Council, in many cases jointly with the European Parliament.

Areas of intergovernmental co-operation are less transparent than the questions where the European Parliament exercises legislative and budgetary functions. Shouldn’t those who long for openness and democratic accountability demand extended powers for the European Parliament, in short a democratic Union?

A number of European local governments employ more than 30,000 public servants. Are these cities bloated monstrosities, too? There are some 490 million EU citizens, and the relative size of the Union’s budget is one twentieth part of the federal budget of the United States of America.

By May 2004 governments and parliaments in 27 democratic European countries had applied and been accepted as members of the European Union. Surely, they must have seen some benefits. Surely, looking back at Europe’s history, they had learned something.

The European Union is no Leviathan. How should one evaluate a school system and media, which fail to give people basic civic knowledge?

Ralf Grahn