A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Authoritarian Nature of the EU

'I have never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account' - Raymond Barre

You may ask who Raymond Barre was. In fact, I doubt anyone on the streets would be able to tell you who he is. Well, he is the man, who, until recently, was the ultimate authority on economic affairs in Europe. The fact that you've probably never heard of him speaks volumes as to the EU being authoritarian, or even a dictatorship; it is simply unacceptable for a single man to hold so much power and not be subject to the will of the people. He held the economic prosperity of Europe in his hands, and no-one ever saw his name on any EU ballot sheet.

The sight of proud left-wing liberal democrats defending a blatant autocracy is hilarious, I'll admit, but they always fall back on one defence; 'if you don't like it, vote to change it.' Well, that's the point, isn't it? How do they propose we do that?

There are three main institutions of the European Union:

1) The European Parliament
2) The European Commission
3) The European Council

Now, I have to say, the EU has been rather clever in how its gone about doing this. Two out of those three we vote for. The European Parliament is made up of elected representatives of the people, and the European Council is made up of the elected heads of state of the member states. But look carefully at the relationships between these institutions, and you'll see a more authoritarian system emerging.

Take the Parliament, for example, often hailed as the ultimate expression of European democracy in action - with one fundamental difference. Whilst the elected parliaments in almost every single western nation can legislate on behalf of the people - that being the primary function of most of them - the European Parliament cannot. It has no right to propose or draft legislation whatsoever. That is solely reserved for the Commission. The Parliament can veto laws it doesn't like, but only in less important policy areas. The elected representatives of the people have no authority over common security and foreign policy, or the economy.

The Council is made up of elected heads of state; however, its president, a man who, in theory, sets the agenda for our elected heads of state to follow, is Herman van Rompuy. 4% of Germans have heard of him, so it's simply impossible for him to have a democratic mandate, election or not. He will never be removed from office. Not even at the request of the Council. He was never voted into it, either. That's okay, to an extent, with someone like van Rompuy, who will never use the awesome powers ascribed to that position; to have the final say on the actions of Europe's heads of state and their elected parliaments is truly one of the most powerful roles on earth. But it was only because of Angela Merkel's objections that it is van Rompuy, not Tony Blair, a man who was authoritarian even within the carefully-balanced British system. Imagine him, or a similar figure, in a post where he has no democratic oversight. Herman van Rompuy may not rule through force - he rules through anonymity - but he is an unelected leader who cannot be removed from any position of power, and can do as he pleases. That is surely the defnition of a dictator? If not, I challenge you to call it democracy.

The Commission, the EU's 'executive body,' is entirely unelected. Many of the twenty-seven representatives that (nominally) speak up for their nation there (not what they actually do, as Baroness Catherine Ashton has admitted her primary role is to serve the EU within her country) have held some form of elected office. A few of them were former Prime Ministers. No-one in Europe, other than the Commission itself, has any power over the affairs of the Commission. No-one can put them in office; no-one can remove them from office. There is no democratic control on their affairs, and no accountability to the public whatsoever. The twenty-seven people are effectively the EU's unelected executive and legislature. It was once suggested, by the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, that it change it names to 'European Government,' because it is, effectively, the European Government. A European Government that is entirely unelected.

So, to those of you who doubt that the UK is now effectively in a dictatorial government, I'd ask this: how is a government where neither the legislature or the executive are elected or accountable not a dictatorship? And, if you would prefer to avoid that question and call anyone who raises the issue of democracy a fascist or a Nazi, I'll just leave you with a few more quotes from leading federalists:

'Opponents of the EU are mentally weak' - Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament

'The good thing about not calling it a Constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it' - Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Convention which drew up the Constitution

'If the answer is No, the vote will probably have to be done again' - Jean-Luc Dehaene, Vice-President of the EU Convention

'Sometimes I like to compare the EU to the creation of empire. We have the dimension of empire' - Jose Manuel Barosso, current President of the European Commission

The EU cannot be reformed, because the people have no power to reform it.

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