Sunday, 26 February 2012

Euro crises exposed and added to EU lack of legitimacy and democracy

The discussion began in the entries Transparency during the eurozone crises and Euro crises: European Council eviscerated? and Eurozone governance: Fundamental flaws but better presentation. This is the fourth instalment based on my speech at the 22 February 2012 Attac seminar about the implications of the new fiscal discipline in the EU. This text contains some modifications, updates and documentary references, which complement the oral presentation.


The preceding discussion about openness (transparency) brings us to the the need for democracy.

Let me start with the good news.

In addition to EU citizenship and the principle of equality of citizens (Article 9 TEU), Article 10(1) of the Treaty on European Union tells us:

The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

Even the second paragraph – Article 10(2) – looks promising:

Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

However, the European Union is essentially ”owned” by the member states, represented in the two most important institutions, the European Council and the Council, by their governments. The member states hold the treaty making powers (and fairly little radical change can be accomplished without bumping into the walls of the absurdly detailed treaties).

New competences (powers) require treaty change, almost a mission impossible with unanimous decisions and national ratifications by every member.

The member states control expenditure through the long term budget (officially the multiannual financial framework MFF), so the European Parliament is allowed to play along with regard to the annual budget within the framework.

The member states limit the EU's opportunities to tax and to borrow for its policies.

Most importantly, the citizens are not able to vote in, or out, those who govern the union.

In short, the European Union could not become a member of the EU, because it is not a functioning democracy, although it has democratic elements or ornaments.

A democratic union

In my view, it would be better for the security and prosperity European citizens in a globalising world to have a fully democratic union, with accountable government, robust structures and needed powers, starting with foreign and security policy and a common defence, plus a real federal budget.

It is not for the Basic Law to prescribe the contents of the policies to shape, but to offer the ground rules for democratic government and to guarantee fundamental rights.

The arrangement with multiple unanimity rules, 27 national governments dealing with each other in diplomatic mode and as many national parliaments more or less diligently scrutinising what they are up to, was artificial.

The repeated financial, economic and sovereign debt crises since 2008 have exposed fundamental flaws.

The informal coteries and intergovernmental agreements have worsened the situation.

The current system is neither legitimate nor effective.

In interdependent 21st century Europe the question should be the sovereignty of the people, not the sovereignty of states.

Ralf Grahn
speaker on EU affairs, especially digital policy and law

P.S. 1: For better or for worse, between the global issues and the national level, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see an emerging European online public sphere. More than 900 euroblogs are aggregated by multilingual Is your blog already listed among them? Are you following the debates which matter for your future?

P.S. 2: Referring the anti-piracy treaty #ACTA to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) marks a lull in the proceedings, but not an end to the political battle. A few moments ago, the online petition launched by @Avaaz for the European Parliament (and the national parliaments) to reject ACTA had already been signed by 2,436,282 netizens, but more are welcome until the official burial.