Friday 11 July 2008

The latest from Libertas

Four weeks gone from the Irish referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty is a suitable time to check how the better deal for Ireland and Europe is shaping up.

Surprise, surprise, ‘The Latest from Libertas’ is still their Thank you note, dated 17 June 2008.

The positive alternative to the direction Europe is taking is nowhere to be seen.


Ralf Grahn


  1. They never had plans to make suggestion, they just wanted the Treaty to fail for the sake of it. Most probably for the sake of Ganley's US-connections.

  2. Whereas your plan is just to make them vote again.

    How imaginative.

  3. I do not want Ireland to vote again. But if they don't want to vote again I want them to let the other countries go ahead without Ireland. You can't force 26 countries to stop just because one thought he'd get a better deal and simply doesn't in the end. Those "better deal" solutions need to stop.

    I want a better deal, too, and I would get that better deal if Lisbon was ratified by those willing to ratify it. Nice is definitely not the better deal.

  4. Open Europe blog team,

    It would clarify matters if you told readers what you comment on, in this case the preceding comment by European Union Law Blog or my blog.

    By the way, last time you commented on my blog, I asked about your constructive programme for Europe, but received no answer.

  5. European Union Law Blog,

    Since I have seen no proof to back up the allegations against Declan Ganley as a US neo-con stooge, I don't want to speculate.

    I find the proven distortions of Libertas' rejection drive and the continuing lack of a European reform programme remarkable enough.

    Speaking of imaginative, Open Europe seems to be short on undistorted facts and constructive ideas, too, but long on invective and sneer.

    But as Libertas says: In politics, it is easy to simply oppose.

    As you have seen, like you, I have been against a new Irish referendum on the same question from the day the referendum result became known four weeks ago.

  6. As an ordinary Irishman I can recall a similar scenario with the Nice Treaty referendum in Ireland. Then as now, the EU was expanding eastward and we Irish felt further marginalised on the western periphery. However once the economic and political case was put to the people a second time with a particular emphasis on how the nation might lose inward investment in the future, the people reversed their decision in a second referendum. Therefore I believe that if it were done properly, a second referendum on Lisbon would be passed by the Irish electorate.

  7. The glass half full man,

    Your chosen identity shows that you want to be an optimist, in fact more optimistic than I feel.

    I have seen fairly little Irish discussion about the EU-wide politcal dynamics or their consequences for Ireland, but more of defiance against being pushed around by the 'behemoth'.

    By the way, when for instance president Nicolas Sarkozy speaks about finding a solution together with the Irish government, it does not necessarily mean that it is going to be a second referendum.

    Possibly, the government in Ireland comes to the conclusion that a second referendum is unwinnable.

    In that case they may arrange one anyway, just to make Ireland's position manifestly clear.

    Or possibly a new referendum is scrapped, because it wouldn't change anything.

    In both cases Ireland and its European partners might look for an amicable alternative solution.

  8. If you want some strongly anti-EU material produced since Lisbon, or you want to follow some post-Lisbon Irish developments, try this post on my blog which carries articles and opinions lifted from

    It is interesting that the emphasis seems to be Irish opposition to the EU position on the WTO, especially as regards agricultural subsidies (but also as to forcing financial 'services' onto poorer countries), and also as to the development of the EU Army, and its slightly confusing 'merger' with NATO.

    If these developments were denied during the referendum campaign by the YES side, they are not deniable afterwards as they are primary openly declared goals of the Sarkozy EU Presidency.

    The Irish referendum was brought forward from the autumn to try to stop the reality of the EU's future intended path from being too visible. Now it is plain as broad daylight, and the Irish will not be happy.

    Now are they happy about the proposed dominance of the EU by the bigger countries, undoing the influence of the smaller countries achieved at Nice.

    I see a second attempt at a referendum being fraught with problems for the EU. If the Irish government tries to ratify without a referendum, there would be serious trouble. In Ireland 'trouble' is usually not a laughing matter.

  9. Tapestry,

    I read your blog post a while ago. Here are some spontaneuos thoughts, but perhaps I should first thank you for your effort a little earlier to explain something about the 'better world' you envision outside or after the European Union.

    In my view, you didn't come up with very much substantially, but in comparison with both Libertas and Open Europe you at least showed interest in building a constructive agenda.

    The writing you have chosen to give visibility to points in an interesting direction, namely that not one of the reason for the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty seems to be pro-European in the sense that it would be based on the common good for EU citizens.

    All of them seem to be based on internal Irish concerns (particularities).

    Sadly, in my view, an ambitious world trade deal seems to be unattainable anyway because France and at least a half of EU member states are addicted to the common agricultural policy, at the expense of EU industries, services, consumers and taxpayers, as well as the rest of the world.

    But Irish farmers and rural voters contributed to the 'no' vote.

    The development of EU foreign, security and defence policies has been delayed by the failed ratification of the Constitutional Treaty and the uncertainty surrounding the Lisbon Treaty, but in my view developments are in our common interest as Europeans, based on the mainstream model of NATO and EU engagement.

    Ireland and a few other neutral or non-aligned countries are in fact liberated from participation according to the Lisbon Treaty, but I suppose that there are minds receptive to communist/leftist anti-military propaganda of the kind you offered space to.

    Your examples show that there are a number of real or imaginary causes with the potential to mobilise parts of the Irish population, should a second referendum be arranged.

    One aspect to the contrary could perhaps be mentioned.

    The 'better deal' for Ireland and Europe has been conspicuously absent from the debate following the referendum.

    Still, this was one of the main hopes of many who voted against the Lisbon Treaty.

    Were they unduly optimistic? If not, what would this 'better deal' entail?

  10. Ireland is very small country with few economic options. It has found that it can compete in service businesses by holding down its corporation tax rate to 12.5%.

    This will be threatened by EU tax harmonisation. The Irish are worried that their economy will be harmed by the centralisation of decision-making.

    Large central countries prefer tax harmonisation. Small countries prefer tax competition. Otherwise they could easily be overlooked by investors, and the big countries overwhelm them

    These fears are not irrational, but real and justified.

  11. Tapestry,

    The Lisbon Treaty preserves the unanimity rule concerning direct taxation. From this viewpoint fears about the Irish company tax rate are overblown.

    But it is true that the Commission and a number of member states would like to see tax harmonisation in the internal market, so the political pressure is there, with or without the Lisbon Treaty.

  12. But it is true that the Commission and a number of member states would like to see tax harmonisation in the internal market, so the political pressure is there, with or without the Lisbon Treaty.

    That's true. It's discussed already right now. But I just spoke out against tax harmonisation here in Germany, because I believe there are national solutions. Nobody forces Germany to have ridiculously high tax rates.

    Apart from that Ireland managed to hold down their tax rate due to subventions of bigger countries. Maybe those should be cut to force Ireland to add to harmonisation by itself. At some point Ireland would have to raise taxes, because more money would have to flow into its systems.

    The market can be regulated without laws regulating those taxes, I believe.

  13. Political pressure/legal structures - who cares? The end result is the same - you yield power.

    Lisbon is about power. About who rules. Not only whether the EU, having taken power from the nations, has the right visiion or not about how to use it.

    First the EU has to admit what its game is, and to justify it, to concvince people that they must hand over the power to rule them to the EU. So far it has not done so, judging by its performance in the referenda that have taken place.

    First you, the europhiles must admit that the EU is taking power, or your arguments about nice little details are just that, the minutiae.

    Opponents to the Treaty, as in Ireland can only resist in terms that mean something to the Irish people.

    As the EU has not admitted what the over-arching gameplan consists of, opponents can hardly be expected to fight on that plane. Europe's population is deliberately being kept in ignorance by the EU, as all peoples would vote against losing their identities and countries were they told that that is what this is really all about.

    The message to ordinary voters from the likes of Libertas therefore has to be - If you don't like parts of the Lisbon deal, don't buy into it.

    If the EU was honest to the Irish and asked them openly to be community-spirited and give away their country, then the fightback from the likes of Libertas (there were many other organisations by the way) could directly address the key issue of nationhood versus EU membership.

    As it is, Libertas has to wait and see how the EU presents itself, before constructing counter-arguments. It is not possible to create a counter-argument to a subterfuge, against an organisation that says little, or nothing about what it is really about. After all it is not Libertas that wants the staus quo changed.

    The Irish are right to be cautious. In my opinion they would be crazy to sign into Lisbon, as would Britain. We will have far better government outside the EU, where we can re-establish what have become, apart from Ireland, sham national democracies.

    The EU destroys national democracies, and replaces them with raw bureaucratic power. Peoples' lives are greatly deteriorated by the EU as it has no connection to people.

    It is a disaster, and needs bringing to an end just like the USSR which is the only parallel organisation you can find which pretended to be democratic, while destroying all real democracy and dictating to ordinary people as to how they must live, while accumulating military and all other power.

    Make no mistake. Lisbon is not about fish, or farm prices, or only about taxation, but about power. Thyat is what needs to be explained to the Irish and all others in Europe, but so far has not been.

  14. The EU has the power we give it. Since I prefer the EU to have the power my government is not using anyway to protect the poorer people, I say - more power to the EU.

  15. Tapestry,

    When you wrote about how British mores are going down the drain, two things hit me.

    First, the deplorable state of the nation (if the picture is accurate and representative) seems to be all of its own making; nothing to do with the European Union.

    Second, in all the fields from education to work and social services there seem to be more successful examples within the EU. Why not use the EU as a benchmarking and learning organisation?

    There seems to be popular support for a more decisive role for the EU on the world stage, but the means would have to be commensurate with the task.

    Therefore, added power requires democratic governance at the EU level.

    It is a bit sad that you feel the need to defend Libertas, when it doesn't do anything by itself.

  16. I am proud to defend Libertas, and suggest that it and other anti-Lisbon Irish campaigning groups should launch new campaigns to remove Ireland from the Euro, and re-establish Irish economic independence.

    Only thus can they maintain and improve their competitive taxation rates and get their economy back into gear.

    Irish banks have abandoned using ECB interest rates for 'tracker' lending, and are paying a high price in risk terms from being tied in with the high Euro.

    The coming financial crisis will demonstrate to Irish people that they are highly vulnerable keeping this facade currency, which has disempowered their government from taking the necessary actions to survive economic crises.

  17. Tapestry,

    Your political bedfellows are as astonishing as your economics:

    Propagating US defence contractors and virulent anti-militarists on the one hand, and now accusing the Euro (which has shielded Ireland) for being behind the Irish financial crisis.

  18. tapestry,

    if Ireland was removed from the EU it would probably just end up like New Zealand again - goods are more expensive, you do not receive everything as fast as other people do, you'd just feel like a second class human being isolated from the mainlands. I'm talking to people in New Zealand often and know their complaints - life is just different on an island if you are not integrated in a good-working, supplying system. You've just forgotten how to value the living standards you have, because it's become normal to you. But ask people of other islands outside the EU how they live, how they long for more.

    Though in the end, I do not really care, because it's not my problem. I'd just like people to think twice before they make a decision of that sort. But whatever you decide is your very own decision you need to deal with in the end.

    I just want the EU to move on.

  19. Today Sarkozy is reported as having privately voiced his opinion that Ireland will have to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty. Quelle surprise and deja vu while I'm at it. This is beginning to sound like the Nice Treaty here in Ireland all over again. As someone who voted yes in the recent referendum I personally can't see what all the fuss was about, most of the issues raised by Libertas were thrashed out in the previous two Nice referendums.

  20. The Glass Half Full Man,

    Few of the issues Libertas campaigned on were real problems connected with the actual contents of the Lisbon Treaty, but a majority of the Irish voters chose to act differently, for various reasons.

    When I listened to the speeches in the Spanish Senate, I thought about Ireland's standing in Europe and the contradiction between self-proclaimed pro-Europeanness and voting against EU treaty reform.

  21. European Union blog wrote;
    "I just want the EU to move on".

    How can it "move on" without a proper mandate from it's people"?

    Without a democratic nod-of-the-head from the European people it simply has no moral legitimacy.

    However hard you try and defend the EU's contempt for democracy, it is a reality and i'm afraid (in the words of Monty Python) all the rest is simply propaganda.

    Why is this so hard for europhiles to get their heads around? What IS it you don't get?

  22. JO,

    Even if you addressed your remark to European Union Law Blog, I have a few questions on my mind.

    Yesterday the 23rd member state approved the Treaty of Lisbon. Governments and parliaments may be elites in your view, but highly national ones.

    Our common political system is based on representative democracy. Why do you disdain our democratic system of governance?

    If you happen to support direct democracy, shouldn't it apply to all questions political?

    I would like to see principled arguments for an alternative view on democracy, if you happen to have any.

  23. "Why do you disdain our democratic system of governance?"

    On the contrary Ralf, I am a passionate believer in representative democracy.But here in Britain it has been undermined to such an extent that it's become a sham. How can proper representative democracy work if all of those elected to "represent" no longer have the power to do so? It's a nonsense!

    Stop pretending that national parliaments are still sovereign in any meaningful sense. Admit that at least - and then perhaps we CAN "move on".

  24. JO,

    If you are a passionate believer in representative democracy, why not campaign for it at the new level of governance?

  25. Why is this so hard for europhiles to get their heads around? What IS it you don't get?

    I actually want people to get more democratic rights, but so far people have proven that they're not ready for it. People think it's a game, and you vote NO to sink the ship on your screen, as if it had no effect on this world, as if it had no meaning. I want people to show some more responsibility! But many are irresponsible.

  26. How can you advance democracy by denying national sovereignty?

    I'm sorry I truly don't understand. Can you explain please.

  27. How can you advance democracy by denying national sovereignty?

    You seem to simply not get what the European Union is at all if you ask for more national sovereignty.

    What do you get out of the national sovereignty your country has? I can tell you what I get - I have a vote every four years to not vote for the leader of my country, because it is not directly elected. And when they're done and all the people I did not want in my parliament are set, because they moved in through lists I had no vote on, I am back to business as usual not having a say in this country.

    I'd be ridiculing myself if I wanted any more of that kind of national sovereignty.

  28. JO,

    Once you realise that Europeans' security and prosperity in a globalised world are tied up with joining forces, as has been cautiously done by agreeing on common policies, you would understand that these policies need democratic governance.

    Re-exporting these policies to the national level, which is ever less capable of tackling the challenges, is the real recipe for sovereignty without content and meaning.

  29. Here we go again, the same old sound bite, the same fall-back argument, the same tired old reasoning, the one all europists use as a last resort when they run out of proper answers .. that "Europe needs to join forces in order to meet the challenges of globalisation". It sounds so reasonable, but it's just words! What does it actually mean?

    I have absolutely no problem with "joining forces to tackle "the challenges of globalisation" - Europe is, after all, mainly comprised of mature liberal democracies who ought to have no difficulty in pooling their clout and expertise in certain areas for the greater good of Europeans. I'm just waiting for one of you good people to tell me how "sovereignty" fits into this cunning Master Plan. Because without sovereignty there can be no proper democracy, and without democracy it just ain't going to work!

    So I'm asking again - HOW is EU politics going to function without sovereignty?

  30. JO,

    I don't know why you insist on the word sovereignty, which is more often than not used to let the likes of Robert Mugabe get away with murder (assisted by veto powers).

    It is a concept intimately linked with the (nation) state, so in my view not necessarily the best term to describe how the European Union should work.

    The European Union needs certain competences (as they are called), although I prefer the word powers.

    The exercise of these powers needs to be democratic, legitimate and accountable. For the sake of our common security and prosperity the exercise of these powers needs to be effective and efficient.

    You may call arguments about Europe's international challenges worn, but the European Union has hardly started on the road towards tackling the common problems, largely because it lacks the robust and democratic structures needed to fulfil its purpose.

  31. Ralf, I know you probably don't mean them to be, but sometimes your responses are so pompous they take my breath away.

    When it comes to making comparisons with Mugabe, you'd have to go a long way to find a better example than the EU.

    What was it Solana said after Zimbabwe's disgraceful election result?

    'the people of Zimbabwe have been deprived of their right to vote freely, and thus deprived of their dignity'.

    Perhaps you can explain why the 'dignity' of the Zimbabwean people is more sacred than that of Europeans?

  32. Democracy - direct, indirect, representative, whatever - necessarily presumes the existence of a self-identifying "demos", a coherent people who are prepared to be ruled as a unit, and each consenting to accept decisions made by some kind of majority voting amongst themselves.

    Not just "government of the people by the people", but more exactly "government of the people by the same people" - not government of the people by other peoples, in other lands.

    No such European, or more correctly EU, demos exists, and nor can it be conjured into existence through by some legal device such as "EU citizenship", outside the perceptions of a very small minority. If you doubt that, look at the EU's own Eurobarometer surveys.

    In the autumn of 2004, a mere 3 per cent of EU citizens said that they thought of themselves as being "European only", while 7 per cent chose the "European and their nationality" response. A massive 88 per cent put their nationality first, and of those nearly half denied feeling "European" at all.

    Overwhelmingly the peoples of Europe, plural, do not wish to be governed as the people of Europe, singular, and nor is there any prospect of that changing in the foreseeable future. Therefore by its nature the EU cannot be democratic.

    You can go through the motions of filling an assembly with members from across the EU, each supposedly elected by some national democratic process, but that does not make it a democratic assembly.

    Ask the average Briton "Would you like the Bulgarians to help decide our laws?" and after the initial puzzlement at such a ludicrous suggestion the answer would be "Of course not. They should concentrate on running their own country, and we should run ours". Ask the average Bulgarian the same question the other way round, and the answer would be the same.

    But the fact is that in both cases about 80 per cent of their new laws are now being decided on a multinational and therefore inherently undemocratic basis within the EU, rather than on a national and therefore potentially democratic basis.

    Here's a thought experiment. Let's make it more transparent by having a House of Commons made up of members elected across the EU, rather than just in Britain. Then when we turned on the BBC Parliament channel and saw the MP for Belgrade standing up to say his piece about some proposed new British law, and then voting on it and even helping to outvote MPs elected in Britain, we could ask why on earth we were allowing foreign politicians to vote on our laws.

    But of course that's exactly what is happening in the EU Parliament all the time - it's simply that it's indirect, and most Britons, and most Bulgarians, haven't yet fully grasped it.

  33. JO,

    I don't know if I can attain your desired lack of pomposity, but do you even one example of the EU citizens having been deprived of their right to vote for their representatives in free and fair elections?

    As a passionate believer in representative democracy, I expect you to know.

  34. JO,

    I understand why you have to deny a larger demos, but already the drafters of the US Constitution had to contend with the existing notion that democratic rule could not be extended beyond a limited area, like a city state or nation state, but they solved the problem.

    So can Europe, although almost everywhere and in most elections the constituences or electoral districts are much smaller.

    My definition of 'demos' is legal: EU citizenship. And it already exists in the European Parliament elections.

    For people slow on the uptake it may take a few generations to get used to the idea, but as you point out, there is a minority of early adapters.

  35. Well, of course you would look at it like that.

    A few hundred politicians and officials draw up a treaty, and then a few thousand politicians vote to ratify it, and lo and behold they believe that they've welded a dozen disparate nations, numbering a few hundred million, into one nation.

    Except of course for the Danes, because they only voted for that treaty in their second referendum after being opted-out of EU citizenship.

    Who is saying that there is no EU demos? Those who you suppose have been made into an EU demos simply by being given the legal status of "EU citizens", without their prior consent, and still even now in some cases without their knowledge.

    Oddly enough, there was a very similar picture in Yugoslavia, before it disintegrated. Legally they were all citizens of Yugoslavia, which in your eyes should be enough to make them Yugoslavs. Nevertheless in the 1981 census only 6 per cent chose to identify themselves as "Yugoslavs", and by 1991 that had dropped to 3 per cent.
    Inhabitants of the EU no more share a pan-EU identity, and there is no more a pan-EU "demos", than the inhabitants of Yugoslavia shared a Yugoslav identity, or there was a Yugoslav "demos", before the Yugoslav federation broke up.

    Whatever they do, the eurocrats can't create a pan-EU "demos" which does not exist, and which nobody but them wants to try to create. And if anything, the trend from the Eurobarometer surveys is in the opposite direction, so you're the one who's a laggard by not realising that.

    In any case, as far as the EU Parliament is concerned you're wrong even on paper.

    See Article 189 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, pdf page 130 here:

    "The European Parliament, which shall consist of representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community, shall exercise the powers conferred upon it by this Treaty."

    An implicit admission that this is not, and cannot be, regarded as a democratic assembly.

  36. grahnlaw asks: "If you are a passionate believer in representative democracy, why not campaign for it at the new level of governance?"

    The hope of democracy at the 'new level' as that level is currently emerging, is a mirage.

    It is not possible in reality without a pan-European demos, which depends far more on common cultural factors than the legal definition you conveniently choose.

    This is the difference in the USA, and is of course why the EU has long engaged in programmes of social engineering (particularly directed at young people), using tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer-funded propaganda designed to create that 'European identity'.

    They themselves recognise the lack of such identity will hold them back from achieving final statehood via Europe's peoples accepting overt common rule from the EU centre.

    But what should be more worrying for those who hold democracy paramount as the only true guarantor of peace and stablity on our continent (rather than merely shiny glass buildings in Brussels) is that there is little obvious interest among those driving the EU in making the EU truly democratic anyway.

    For example, the hugely powerful European Central Bank was relatively recently created with complete immunity from political & democratic input. And yes, to a *far* greater extent that the Bank of England's limited 'independence', so please no-one embarrass themselves by casually comparing the two set-ups.

    Sure, there's a bit of tinkering at the edges ... for example, the right in the Lisbon Treaty for national Parliaments to express an opinion on new EU laws, though it is ensured that they can quite easily be ignored in the resulting 'review'. Such proposals purportedly to combat the 'democratic deficit' are always window dressing.

    The EU knows, as you also must, that if the EU became more democratic all that it is today would quickly unravel. See recent referendum results for further information.

  37. Anonymous,

    Representative democracy at the EU level already exists, although the voting EU citizens are described as 'peoples'.

    You seem to deny the possibility of EU level prospectively, too ('cannot').

    The Lisbon Treaty version of the Treaty on European Union has at least three relevant clauses:

    Article 10(1) The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

    Article 10(2) Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

    Article 14(2) The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens. ---

  38. On paper, grahnlaw, just on paper.

    Not in reality - not in people's hearts and minds, except for a few freaks like yourself.

    There were never many "Yugoslavs" in Yugoslavia, and now there are no "Yugoslavs" at all. I guess some deserted their beloved Yugoslavia altogether, and are living in other parts of the world as "Swedes", "Canadians" etc, while others discovered that they were really Serbs, or Croats, etc, after all.

    Have you thought what you will do when the EU disintegrates? Move to the hated US, or somewhere else outside Europe? Or decide that you were really a Finn all the time?

  39. Pro Europe, anti EU,

    Referendum results prove very little besides the superiority of representative democracy.

  40. grahnlaw said: "Representative democracy at the EU level already exists, although the voting EU citizens are described as 'peoples'."

    Oh, well, if it says so in the treaty then there's no need to consult reality is there. What a wonderfully apt response! :)

    Not even making the Commission president directly elected nor the Council drawn from the leading group in the European Parliament will introduce authentic democracy into the EU structure.

    See earlier comments about lack of a 'demos'. It may be inconvenient to EU Statists, but it's really quite fundamental to democracy. You can tell, because it makes up half of the word.

    I'm not a bit surprised to learn that you don't rate referendums. I wonder if you have heard of the Enlightenment at all. There is no room in Europe for neo-feudalists and their backward ideas of elites knowing what's best for the serfs when it comes to governance.

    I had thought that you were stuck in the 1950s, but it seems your ideas are rooted far further back.

  41. Pro Europe, anti EU,

    Why do call yourself 'pro Europe', when your identity leads back to pages euphemistically called 'Eurosceptic'?

    In my view, those who are against the common achievements and construction of Europe are anti-Europeans, and in your case there has not been one whisper of 'pro' anything that binds Europeans together.

    Playing around with 'demos' is work for political scientists, but the real challenge is to reform the European Union to become democratic, legitimate and accountable. I find this a highly forward-looking task for the 21st century.

    In my view, the United States Constitution is a model we can learn much from, and you can hardly argue that the drafters were uninspired by the Enlightenment.

    In contrast, your ideas seem to be firmly based in a Westphalian system, A.D. 1648.

    On retrograde opinion, I think that you win hands down.

  42. Ralf, the EU can never be genuinely democratic because it has one overriding purpose - its own advancement regardless of popular opinion. You've said as much yourself.

    In a proper democracy, the electorate has a choice of parties spanning many political creeds - and collectively, every few years, we voters get to choose a government we think is best suited to the job. Then, simply put, if it's not up to scratch, we kick them out - and keep kicking them out - until they get it right. This is representative democracy. It represents the collective will of the people. WE choose. It is the PEOPLE who are sovereign.

    But the EU's not like that. And, like all EU institutions - the EU Parliament has one doctrine and one doctrine only - the advancement of the EU. It is like a Parliament full of "Flat-earthers" where all legislation hangs on one fundamental principle - that the earth is flat. And though there is still debate, of course, it's only about the NUANCES of flatness. Apart from an enlightened few (whose views are dismissed as beyond the pale and thus are of no account, anyway) there's no proper 'Official Opposition' arguing that the earth is actually quite sensibly round. The political elite - the Commission, the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament - all share the SAME DOCTRINE - an integrated Europe. That's not Democracy - it's a one party state.

    And although 'citizens' (and I'm only speaking for the British here) may be technically 'represented', we are not really. It's sort of like the bad old days when you were forced to join a trade union in order to get a job because the company - having reached some back room deal with the Union bosses - makes it a condition of employment.

    You know as well as I do, Ralf, that in reality, MEPs DON'T represent the electorate to the EU, it's the other way around. They represent the EU to the electorate.
    (And I'm not a 'citizen' by the way - I am a 'subject' of Her Majesty the Queen. And I won't be drawn into a debate on the monarchy .. it's an emotional thing and because you're not British, it's something you just can't understand - and in any case it's none of your business).

  43. JO,

    You say:

    "In a proper democracy, the electorate has a choice of parties spanning many political creeds - and collectively, every few years, we voters get to choose a government we think is best suited to the job. Then, simply put, if it's not up to scratch, we kick them out - and keep kicking them out - until they get it right. This is representative democracy. It represents the collective will of the people. WE choose. It is the PEOPLE who are sovereign."

    Yes, we are in agreement on the basic features of representative democracy.

    This is the system I want for the European Union, for all questions where the EU has powers.

  44. "Playing around with 'demos' is work for political scientists", and something that doesn't interest you. But you feel that you're qualified to push for the EU become "more democratic", even though you don't understand the meaning of the word.

    Have you noticed what is happening in Belgium?

    "Fears of a permanent north/south split overshadow the national day"

    "Relations between the inhabitants of Flanders, who speak Dutch, and those of French-speaking Wallonia appear close to irrevocable breakdown and an overhaul of the constitution which would give more power to the regions - in what is already the most federal nation in the European Union - has exacerbated those tensions."

    "The fate of Brussels, the wealthy capital, remains the sticking point in any break-up scenario. Although it is located just inside the Dutch-speaking part of the country, the city's population is only 11 per cent Flemish and Flanders fears losing it to the south. There is even drastic talk of moving the EU's institutions out of Brussels in the event of a Czechoslovakia-like split."

    Now as a lawyer you're probably puzzled by all this.

    On paper, the inhabitants of Flanders and those of Wallonia are all Belgians, just as the inhabitants of France and those of Finland are all Europeans. Look, it says here that they have a common citizenship, and it says here that they share common democratic institutions, with representatives directly elected by the citizens. There are no border controls between Flanders and Wallonia, and all Belgians have long enjoyed the same fundamental rights, including freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people within Belgium. They even shared their own Belgian currency, before it was supplanted by the euro.

    Of course for people who were slow on the uptake it might have taken a few generations to get used to the idea that they were all Belgians, a single people or "demos", but eventually they'd be content to be governed as a single political unit, Belgium, and if a Belgian found himself in a minority on some question then naturally he wouldn't like that but nevertheless he'd accept the democratic will of the majority of his compatriots.

    Well, Belgium is now celebrating its 178th birthday - how many generations would that be? Seven? - and there's a growing feeling that it might be its last.

    " 'This is the end of Belgium,' said Eduard Schonacher, a shop worker from Wallonia. 'The writing's been on the wall for some time. Belgium was always an artificial creation ... that brought together two peoples with absolutely no affinity.' "

  45. Anonymous,

    It is always sad when nationalism turns narrow-minded and ugly, as it seems to have been doing in Blegium for a considerable time.

    But if present day EU member states split, they are going to need the internal market and other EU rules even more, as well as a more effective EU on the world stage.

  46. Oh yes, blame the narrow-minded nationalists. That's always an easy let-out.

    Don't pause to think that it might be utopians like yourself who have forgotten that your abstract "citizens" are in fact human beings, who have human feelings. Just put it down on paper that these distinct peoples are now made one people, with the stroke of a pen, and in a few generations everything will fine.

    Blindly ignore the lessons of history, which tell us that Yugoslavia was a political unit created and imposed by a political elite, which even with its federal structure never adequately accommodated the instinctive drive of its different peoples to determine their own destinies.

    And likewise Czechoslovakia, where once they were given the opportunity the Czechs and the Slovaks decided that they no longer wished to share a country, even with the reassurance that the government of that country would be "democratic".

    Not one "demos", but two, you see; the Czechs were no longer willing to defer to a majority view if it depended on the votes of Slovaks, and vice versa; therefore no basis for a joint "democracy". Can't you grasp that simple idea?

    And likewise now Belgium, probably, even after seven generations for the laggards to catch up with your early adapters.

    These are just recent examples from Europe, but it has happened again and again around the world.

    And there are usually these highly intelligent and articulate and no doubt well-meaning visionaries like yourself, who somehow lack the basic common sense to see that they're helping to construct a timebomb.

  47. Anonymous,

    Thank you for implying that I am a visionary, although my view is highly practical, even mundane.

    1. Political power should be exercised with the consent of the governed (representative democracy).

    2. The right questions should be decided at the right level (local, regional, national, EU).

  48. "This is the system I want for the European Union, for all questions where the EU has powers."

    Then, with respect, Ralf .. you are living in cloud cuckoo land, and 'Grahnlaw' is less a serious political blog and more a childs Christmas wish list to Santa!

    The uncomfortable reality is that the EU is *institutionally* anti-democratic. It was designed that way because its architects wouldn't have stood a hope in hells chance of carrying through 'The Project' otherwise. They never had any intention of 'listening to the people'. Furthermore, for all it's recent waffle about 'Democracy, Dialogue and Debate' the EU has no intention of doing so in the future either.

    Like those other elite gatherings - the WTO and the UN - the EU wants to bypass contested politics which it sees as an outdated relic of the nation state and the "narrow bias" of it's "Pesky People" - which it holds in utter contempt.

    Like the UN and the WTO, the EU intends to 'manage' not govern. And it plans to do so through a pan-European network of carefully selected 'on message' NGO's, quangos, Regional Assemblies, Regional Development Agencies, Local Strategic Partnerships (you'll have your own similarly titled versions in Finland no doubt) and a vast web of bossy self-important busy-bodies which it calls 'Civil Society'. Proper, effective representative democracy just isn't part of the plan.

    If you sincerely desire a truly democratic Europe, then you must see that the EU isn't the vehicle for it. It's very construction makes in UNreformable.

  49. JO,

    Democratic reform has not been instantly embraced at other levels either. On the contrary, it has been a long and hard battle in many countries, often with gradual advancement.

    It took the European Economic Community about two decades to put the first directly elected assembly (European Parliament) in place.

    Three decades later the European Parliament has powers to co-legislate in a number of areas (first pillar), and the Constitutional Treaty would have extended these fields, as does the Lisbon Treaty propose.

    In other words, reform has been possible, although far from enough and well short of complete, with the cartel of national leaders clinging to the crucial levers of power.

    But even the member states' governments may come to realise that they have to change tack.

    They need the European Union to deliver what their nation states are increasingly unable to achieve, so sooner or later they will have to accept an effective, democratic and accountable European Union.

    With due respect, imagining that the European Union is going to vanish into thin air seems to be in a class of its own as pipe-dreams go, although it is always possible that some shortsighted electorates might withdraw.

  50. "2. The right questions should be decided at the right level (local, regional, national, EU)".

    Nothing should be decided at the EU level which purports to be legally binding on the national legislatures.

    In the absence of a pan-EU "demos", legislation at the EU level is inherently undemocratic, and furthermore it sucks power away from the national legislatures where there is at least some hope of democracy.

    The governments of sovereign states may make agreements under which they will ask their respective national legislatures to modify national legislation in ways which appear to be beneficial for trade, or for other aspects of international relations, but on no account should they ever commit to telling their national legislatures that they must change domestic laws.

    So no EU Directives, Regulations or Decisions, claiming to enjoy a superior legal status and pre-empting decisions made in the national legislatures.

    The fact is that the national legislatures have delegated powers to the EU institutions, and those powers have been grossly misused, just as the money provided to the EU institutions has been grossly misused.

    As for decisions at the "regional" level - I suggest that you restrict your attention to the internal organisation of your own country, and refrain from unnecessary and unwelcome interference with the internal organisation of other countries, which quite frankly is none of your business.

  51. Anonymous,

    As far as I know legislation in various states is changed as a result of international treaties, although the European Union is special given the amount of secondary legislation.

    Democracy at the regional level exists, in varying degrees, in different EU member states. The concept is neutral, but for some odd reason you react as if I had offended you personally by mentioning that democracy exists at levels other than local and state.

    The peremptory tone with which you want to restrict my freedom of expression is preposterous.

    An attitude like that can hardly have grown in a democratic state (of mind).

  52. Of course it's offensive when people from one country start taking it upon themselves to interfere with the way another country is run, including whether decisions are taken at the national level or some lower level. That's the whole point. I'll point out to you that not a single one of the peoples of Europe which were already in the EU were consulted about whether they wanted the Finns to help run their country. In fact in most cases they were barely told that this would be happening - at the most it was a minor news item out of the blue to the effect that "Three new members - Austria, Sweden and Finland - have joined the European club (sic) today". If they had all been asked, and directly in a referendum, it's likely that at least one of them would have said "Actually, we're already fed up with the Germans, the French and the Italians telling us what to do in our own country, so why should we allow the Austrians, the Swedes and the Finns to chip in as well?"

  53. Anonymous,

    I have spoken of nobody's country in particular. I am not running anyone's country.

    But as a citizen of the European Union I like to discuss the future of Europe, and as far as I know that is my right, at least in my own country as well as in every member state of the Council of Europe.

    If you don't feel comfortable with the freedom of expression in general of discussion on this blog, nobody forces you to suffer. Just be selective enough what you read, listen to and click on.


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