Slovenia is about to hold a referendum reform to its pension scheme that will see people work for five years longer, retiring at the age of sixty-five, due to the pressure put on the country's budget by the current system. It's a fairly small issue, as far as the EU is concerned. But van Rompuy was here - a man whose job it is to oversee the deliberations of elected heads of state would rather be lecturing the Slovenians on why they have no choice in the matter. In characteristic EU style, his response to the referendum was to dutifully inform them that they 'will have to implement the pension reform sooner or later.'
Unlike the referendums on European integration, which the EU has always ignored or repeated, van Rompuy has no actual power to force the Slovenians to do anything. Well, almost. He could inform the other EU heads of state that it needs to get its budget deficit below three per cent of GDP, as per European rules, and therefore cause a whole load of legal problems between the EU and the Slovenian government. But that's the EU's attitude to democracy displayed once again.
Also, van Rompuy's involvement hints at something else: how much power the EU has over citizens, and how decisions made by unelected officials, such as van Rompuy, can have major effects on the finances and careers of every European. The Slovenians probably never realised before this referendum that EU rules could force their government to radically alter the pensions scheme. They do now. But they never got to vote on any of the people that drew up these rules, nor the people that enforce them; and, now, when they have a national vote on the subject, the most senior of those unelected officials, other than Barroso himself, is now telling them that it doesn't matter.
The Slovenians have long benefited from EU funding and the sense of integration after the fall of Communism; now, however, they may be seeing that the EU is not in their best interests. Van Rompuy declared Croatia is now on track to becoming an EU member. There's one problem: Croatia, their neighbour, a country whose acceptance to the EU they championed, is now firmly opposed to EU membership. Only 23% are now in favour. This officially makes it the most Eurosceptic country in Europe. But the EU and the national government doesn't seem to care what the populace think, and it's becoming increasingly apparent to the Slovenian population.
Perhaps now the peoples of southern Europe will realise that if they truly want to preserve the democracy that they fought so hard for, they must remain outside the EU?