Mr. Rutte meets Barroso. Picture by Minister-President Rutte.
The Netherlands has begun to mutter darkly what we suspected all along - namely, that the endgame for the Commission's increasing dominance over heavily-indebted nations of the eurozone is political control. Or, to use the words of Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, to place them under 'guardianship.' This is possibly the most flagrantly anti-democratic proposal to spill from the mouth of an EU leader for some time: it will essentially mean the economic affairs of countries that fail to comply with stringent EU demands to get their economies in order will be placed under the control of a small cabal of unelected officials. That's a treatment usually reserved for disputed territories and warring Balkan states: not for liberal democracies in the centre of Europe.
In fact, there's a lot in the letter - co-signed by the finance, economy, and foreign ministers - that ought to make a Eurosceptic, and indeed any democrat, weep. Not only would the country have its budget drawn up and much of its political affairs overseen and scrutinised by an appointed Commissioner, but it would also lose its EU voting rights and all EU structural funds unless it complied with every edict that the Commission cares to hand down. So not only will any nations who let their finances spiral out of the strict EU parameters have economic sovereignty removed from them, but they will also be stripped of their ability to influence in any way the decisions that are made on their behalf.
Think what is usually associated with austerity measures: tax rises, price hikes, and spending cuts. Now imagine that all of that was under the control of someone who could not be voted out of office. They would not need to consider the populace of the country in the slightest whilst they systematically decimate their infrastructure and services. As someone who approves of the theory behind the public spending cuts in Britain, if not in any way their application, I still say that that is fundamentally unjust situation. Whatever you may think of David Cameron, he is elected: the people in control of far harsher austerity measures in what are likely to be far poorer countries will neither be elected nor accountable.
It is a good thing, then, that Mr. Rutte leaves another option for these indebted states: withdrawal from the eurozone. It's also a good thing that, as yet, there is little word of widespread endorsement from other member states, or the European Commission itself. This will probably turn out to be nothing more than one idea out of many that leaders come up with as they try to keep the eurozone afloat. But, even so, the intent to deprive a nation of any semblance of democracy coming, as it does, from an elected European leader, belongs to another era.