Thursday 7 January 2010

Charlemagne fixing Europe?

I started reading the promising blog post on Charlemagne’s notebook, Europe realises that Lisbon does not fix Europe (5 January 2010), with a degree of anticipation.

Noteworthy continental journalists had lamented the complexity of the Lisbon Treaty institutions, although previously in favour of adoption of the reform treaty.

A number of links were offered as proof of the foresight of The Economist, but they led to invitations to subscribe to the contents of the paper. It is hard to judge the prescience of the editors on these grounds.

Did the blog post proper open any vistas for how the European Union should be reformed, or how the institutional complexity under the Lisbon Treaty should be remedied?

Charlemagne ended with a few potshots at the citizens’ initiative, without offering any constructive vision for Europe.

(Announcement of bias, although on grounds more than two decades old: The Economist still owes me a one year subscription paid by me, but never honoured by them.)

Qualified Lisbon Treaty support

The Lisbon Treaty is not a great achievement. It is an expression of the “convoy principle”, as applied between the governments of the member states. As long as treaty changes require unanimous agreement and ratification by all member states, the least willing set the pace.

Great Britain, for one, has made heavy use of this structural weakness during practically every round of treaty reform. If the EU is weak, complex and opaque, some of the main reasons can be found quite near the newspaper’s offices.

This blog came around to defend the disappointing Lisbon Treaty on a few crucial grounds. The Treaty of Nice was worse. The Lisbon Treaty was the only reform on offer. The Lisbon Treaty had, during the later stages, not only been agreed by 27 national governments, but been ratified by 26 national parliaments. According to the rules of representative democracy at national level, it expressed an overwhelming common pan-European view of the next step in the integration process.

One can hardly argue that federal systems are simple, but a federal European Union would allow for clear lines of political responsibility and decisive input from the citizens of the union.

India and the United States somehow manage to function as democracies. Why should a democratic and federal Europe in the 21st century be beyond the grasp of a paper founded to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Joe Litobarski is an active blogger and podcaster, as well as a builder of the community known as the euroblogosphere. His blog is listed among the more than 500 great euroblogs on multilingual, our common “village well” for fact, opinion and gossip on European affairs.

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