Friday, 11 January 2008

EU leaders left work undone

Although representative democracy and parliamentary ratification of international treaties are the norm, not an aberration, the members of the European Council have paid too little attention to openness, transparency and equality before and after the signing of the Reform Treaty.

The present structures of the European Union left the leaders with little choice but to negotiate initially on an intergovernmental basis to break the institutional deadlock. Let us say that necessity dictated the choices until the agreement on the IGC 2007 Mandate. But after that, how did our leaders explain their reasons and argue their case for institutional reform?

In my opinion, the leaders of the EU member states were somewhat hasty in wanting to leave the seven year period (since Nice) of institutional wrangling behind them, without enough discussion with the citizens at the national or the EU level about our common challenges or the contents of the Lisbon Treaty.

Our future security and prosperity demand joint action, the pooling resources in a European context. The European Union, as a means to our ends, is with us every day. Communicating Europe requires consistent effort, not a few token appearances a year.

Our leaders’ refusal to publish consolidated versions of the Lisbon Treaty in every official language of the Union, has only worsened the situation, giving free rein to ‘hallucinatory’ interpretations of the proposed amendments.

You don’t have to look very hard in the blogosphere to see staggering examples of disinformation. Then, look at the quality and the quantity of factual counter-information. The efforts of most of our governments seem derisory in comparison. Lacking communication is a failure of leadership.

Readable, consolidated Treaties as well as assessments and commentaries are needed, among other things, because I believe that at least some citizens are enlightened enough to want to base their opinions on facts and reason, given the chance.


In the longer term, the national leaders have to cross their Rubicon. If our main challenges have moved ‘upstairs’, being global or transborder in character, democracy has to follow. In the end, only a European Parliament with full powers can erase the democratic deficit, which the Lisbon Treaty alleviates in some respects while aggravating it in other fields.


Personally, I am grateful for information on consolidations and literature on the Treaty of Lisbon, in order to share it with my fellow EU citizens.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. We European citizens do not need nitpicking detail. We need the same kind of effective protection by our Union that I quoted yesterday concerning another, highly successful Union. The main purposes of the United States of America and the US Constitution were succinctly put by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist, number XXIII:

“The necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived.

The principal purposes to be answered by the union are these – the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.”