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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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Oh, the Comedy

It’s not often that good news comes out of the EU. As we appear to be the only ones watching it transform itself from a staggeringly inefficient treaty organisation to a simply abysmal government institution, we have to contend with witnessing the sovereign powers and democratic control of our nation being handed over to the myriad organisations within the EU’s endless autocratic mess. But it’s not entirely a thankless task. We can be safe in the knowledge that the EU’s attempts to conduct itself like a sovereign state are vaguely amusing.
And the EU’s attempts to get involved in the Libyan crisis are thigh-slappingly hilarious, if only for the rampant and unabashed hypocrisy that infests every outpouring:
Overall, our aim in this mission is to ensure that Libya is democratic, that human rights there are respected and people have the right to elect their leaders as we do in Europe’ - Baroness Catherine Ashton
Let’s do a brief summary of Baroness Ashton’s political career in the UK, before she became the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the Vice President of the Commission, and Britain’s sole presence at the European Commission. Ashton was previously the treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (you can see Nigel Farage’s take on the subject here (3:11)). She worked as a freelance policy advisor in the 1990s, and was made a Labour life peer in 1999 on the insistence of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. She was then made the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Education and Skills, before promotion to Minister for Sure Start, and then finally she was created Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice. Not very glamorous or important roles, it must be said, but throughout her career she never placed her name on a ballot sheet.
She reached the height of her unelected power under Gordon Brown, who bestowed upon her the majestic role of Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. He was having a little problem with the upper chamber regarding their insistence on scrutinizing the Lisbon Treaty before its ratification, and her role - which she executed successfully - was to put paid to any chance of them doing so. Thus she was instrumental in forcing the Lisbon Treaty through parliament without a referendum. Then she was appointed to her current EU roles as part of the deal which blocked Blair standing for EU president, and then went off to Brussels where she receives a £231,000 salary, £250,000 payments when she decides to retire, and an annual pension of £8,000 for one year’s service. The democracy that she speaks so highly of in regards to Libya doesn’t come into it.
As for the people electing their leaders, she has a bit more room for maneuver. She is by no means the leader of anything other than an oversized foreign office and a gold-plated pension-equipped army of retainers who serve her in her post as Britain’s representative at the EU Commission. But she sits as part of the Commission, an institution which successive presidents have ascribed governmental powers to:
Here in Brussels, a true European government has been born. I have governmental powers, I have executive powers for which there is no other name in the world, whether you like it or not, than government’ - Romano Prodi
But what is the Commission? We are here to take binding decisions as an executive power. If you don't like the term government for this, what other term do you suggest?’ - Romano Prodi
I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire’ - Jose Manuel Barosso
If the European Commission has such powers and we cannot vote for, scrutinise, or vote out any of them during their time in office, how the bloody hell can Ashton swan around with her £750,000 income and her political profile and lecture anyone about the wrongs of autocratic rule? They aren’t varying degrees of unaccountability - her and North African dictators are on the same level when it comes to democracy. Neither of them are subject to any democratic authority, and can do as they please regardless of the public who pay for their luxuries.

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