Monday, 4 May 2009

European elections: Libertas’ principles ─ what do they mean?

We are some 31 days from the start of the European elections. A few moments ago, the policies page of Libertas.eu still told us that:

“The Libertas programme for a better Europe will be published on this site in the coming weeks.”



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First principle

The problem is that a simplistic slogan is actually much harder to understand than a detailed explanation, because it raises a number of questions: What do they mean by that? How are they going to achieve it? What are the consequences?

If Libertas is serious about its politics, it should start detailing its policies and their consequences immediately.

In the meanwhile, without a proper Libertas programme, we will have to make do with what is on offer.

Libertas tells us that it is committed to five core principles. We take one at a time, and try to figure out what they mean.

We start with the first one.


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Hold the EU accountable: Only elected politicians should make the law, says Libertas.

Is Libertas smashing through an open door?

Council?

The supreme law-making body of the European Union is the Council, where the ministers of the EU member states approve the directives and regulations.

Most people would accept the ministers as elected politicians, although their mandate is national.

Is this the problem for Libertas? Should national level politicians be disqualified from EU level decisions?

If Libertas wants to abolish the Council, it should say so. Likewise, if it wants to turn the Council into a second chamber (Senate) of the European Parliament, with directly elected Senators.

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European Parliament?

The slogan can hardly be directed against the directly elected European Parliament, which participates in many areas of EU legislation. The EP’s participation would increase and develop under the Treaty of Lisbon, so representative democracy at EU level improves during the next parliamentary term, if the treaty enters into force.

Presumably Libertas means to improve representative democracy further by its legislative action within the EP, since it is standing in the elections to the European Parliament.

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Commission?

The rallying cry can hardly target the Commission, either. The Commission drafts legislative proposals, which are adopted by the Council and often the European Parliament.

I find it hard to believe that Libertas would want to ban the strictly limited cases of delegated legislation by the Commission. Any national or European political system would choke, if the daily fluctuating import values of vegetables or the latest food additive or other details of implementation would have to go the full parliamentary route.

Is Libertas against the Commission’s power to propose legal acts? If that is the case, why not say so?

The rationale for the Commission’s right of proposal is its task to look after the general interest. If Libertas wants to weaken the general interest, which interests does it want to strengthen?


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National parliaments

National parliaments already make the domestic laws, so the aim of Libertas’ slogan has to be something else. And why should Libertas speak about domestic law-making in a campaign for the European Parliament?

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Perplexing

As we see, the meaning and the implications of Libertas’ first core principle are far from clear. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it.

If Libertas wants to maintain what we already have, why launch it as a battle cry, as the first principle of its campaign?

If they want something different, why not tell voters what it is and why it is important?

What do we vote for, if we cast our ballot for a Libertas candidate?

Libertas’ first principle leaves us hanging in suspense.



Ralf Grahn