Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The unbearable top down-ness of European democracy. And the Irish Robin Hood.

To vote or not to vote in the upcoming European Parliament’s elections….
Voters’ interest is once again very low (e.g.: in France source LH2) so the EU Parliament launches a glitzy €18 million elections campaign :"European elections, it's your choice". It may be so but the real question is: does it matter if we vote?

Truth be told, “le machin européen" to paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, is running "itself” just fine without people having a real say (voters turnout in 2004 dropped to 45.47%). As ever more powers are being transferred to the EU Parliament (even more under the European Constitution/Lisbon Treaty), the issue of legitimacy is getting hotter. Or it is just hot air? Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and architect of the constitution on which the treaty is based, said “public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly”. Enters the Irish-voters-who-dare-say NO (53.4%) in the referendum of June 2008 (yes-vote 46.6%) ...

"We are not sheep"

Our political elites are no longer amused and many view this expression of sovereign will as an "inconvenience”, an "obstacle" that must be overcome. The post-ballot message from the EU top sounded like "thou shall vote YES for we know best." Essentially a rethink is out of the question even though the message from the EU bottom is quite clear: citizens are apprehensive, disillusioned and also fed up of being patronized by politicians. Given a chance, the populace rebels by exercising its democratic right to say NO. But even after the translation into the EU official languages (the other 22), the leadership “didn’t get it”. A Russian NIET might have got more attention…

To my mind, the Irish no-voters have become the Robin Hoods of the EU forest. The rebellion had the merit of bringing to light the real nature of the EU democratic process, i.e. consultation of the citizenry is only meant to yield a YES-result. Referenda or elections shouldn’t question let alone stop the momentum engineered from above. Hence begging the question of whether the ideal of a free Europe where citizens can shape their own future isn't slowly being replaced by an ideology tolerating no dissent. If there is no doubt that the Parliament has a few good men and women fighting to do the right thing - while shuttling between their country, Brussels and Strasbourg -, the sad fact that national parties tend not to pick the best (not to mention the recycling of the old like Libertas is doing for its pan-European campaign), does not abode well for the future (for more see Européennes, le PS fait le choix de la médiocrité).

While citizens - rebellious or not - are cutting on their spending to weather the global economic storm, Members of the European Parliament are discussing plans for a new multi-million euro aqua gym/sport centre (according to the Daily Telegraph €8.1m - the EU Parliament hits back and says only €4.1m). Should this rather unclear proposal turn into reality - in whatever shape or cost, it most certainly will -, the thought of healthier, more relaxed parlementarians would hardly be comforting to the struggling EU citizen-taxpayers. A referendum on the issue is unlikely but somehow it is easy to imagine our elected representatives in grand aquatic isolation pondering about the most bearable wellness "top-down" democracy can bring them. See the Times on how MEPs make millions...

Thank you Ireland for being the voice of reason, for keeping alive the hope of a freer, more accountable and democratic Europe ! And on the occasion of your National Day, Happy St. Patrick!


  1. Utter crap. A few facts might help.

  2. thank you for your constructive remark. not sorry that my ideal of europe is not yours... but i added a few facts to help.

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