Thursday, 12 November 2009

Fear of EU democracy unfounded

The Lisbon Treaty reflects our national leaders’ preferences for their union, adorned with elements of EU level democracy.

Does the belief that EU citizens are not mature enough for European level democracy hold water?

Could direct democratic legitimacy lead to good or even better government than the somewhat contorted “double legitimacy” of today?

Let us look at the results of the European Parliament elections 2009, where the citizens of the European Union were given an chance to express their political preferences.

Despite the lack of a uniform election code, European level top candidates, functioning Europarties, common campaigns, and a real say over the course of government, four out of ten EU citizens expressed their choice. Not a bad mark for the sense of civic duty, given the limitation imposed on voters.



For the sake of the argument, I am going to make a crude and subjective division of the groups in the European Parliament into two camps.


Part of the problem


Much criticism and little constructiveness is the dominating trait of the more or less nationalist right and left outside the European political mainstream: the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) 54 MEPs, United European Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) 35, Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) 32 and non-attached members (NI) 27.

For these political groups, with parochial views, the European Parliament seems to be an arena for protest and clownery rather than a place of work.

Of the 736 members of the European Parliament elected, only 148 MEPs, or about 20 per cent, belong to these groups which are more a part of the problem than a part of the solution in the development of the European Union.


Part of the solution


Despite the “second order” status ordained for the elections, the citizens of the European Union showed restraint and maturity by returning 588 MEPs (about 80 per cent) from the four mainstream political groups (mostly) with their democratic credentials in order: the European People’s Party (EPP) 265, the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) 184, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) 84 and the Greens/European Free Alliance 55 MEPs.

These are the parties, which take responsibility for the legislative work and other tasks of the European Union.

They are also clearly political groups on which the government of the European Union could be built.

If the EU has not become a parliamentary democracy yet, with a politically responsible executive, the reasons must be somewhere else than in the European Parliament election result (and the citizens).



Ralf Grahn



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