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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Friday, 25 November 2011

This Commission Power-Grab Should be Resisted

Your taxes could be decided from the 13th floor of Berlaymont. Picture by Matthias v.d. Elbe.

Prepare for the most flagrant breach of democratic values in modern European history. Yes, even bigger than the installation of an unelected cabal as the governments of and Greece and Italy. The European Commission - that is the EU's central, appointed, unaccountable executive - has called for the ultimate power over national fiscal and economic affairs to be bequeathed to it. The proposals will, if implemented, see the Commission reviewing and editing fiscal plans put forward by national executives before elected legislatures ever read them. Countries - any country, even one that does not need international assistance - is liable to summary inspection by EU officials if the Commission wishes, and will have to submit reports on how it is carrying out reforms ordered by the troika. The Commission will also confer upon itself the power to 'recommend' to the Council of Ministers that any country be forced to accept a bailout, and the economic overhaul that comes with it, regardless of whether they actually need or want international assistance.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the Commission, says that there are no conflicts between the plans and democracy, insisting that as elected governments will approve it it's okay. But this argument relies on a colossal misunderstanding of democracy, the whole point of which is that we decide who holds the power to govern us, not those who do the governing. Besides which, once wished away, you cannot wish power back again: those who you deferred it to will be understandably reluctant to hand it back. Mr. Barroso stands to become the most powerful official in the European Union if the plans go ahead, and the Commission its most powerful institution. Will either of them willingly surrender either of those titles if people who they do not answer to tell them to?

The President has no desire to indulge a 'philosophical debate,' so I won't make one: but I will say that the power over economics and finance is the most fundamental of all, the one that ought to be most in alignment with the populace. For to control the money is to control the government. No policy can ever be implemented, if no funds are allocated to it. No law, no legislative programme. Whoever controls finance can reach right into the heart of families, and alter and adjust taxes, tarrifs, pensions, and public sector salaries. What if they could do all that without regard for the people their decisions affect?

We don't need to wonder upon that question: we know. If you're like me, and you think that Gordon Brown was economically illiterate, then you'll probably agree that the only thing that made his credit card spree bearable was the near-certainty that he'd be booted out come the next election. What if there was no election? If you're a solid fifth-generation Labour vote from north Wales, you're not going to like George Osbourne much, either. What if he, too, was immune to public sentiment? What if all you could do was wail and scream and gnash your teeth as they destroyed your pension and took away your job? What if all the public opposition in the world made not a jot of difference? That's the situation that were expose ourselves to if we - or our governments - allow the Commission's proposals to go ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Britain could put an end to all this nonsense in a single and very bluntly-worded Act of Parliament, and so it should - and Barosso and his ilk wouldn't be able to do anything about it. The sovereignty of Parliament is involiable, this is just repeal of the Bill of Rights by another name. Only Parliament has the power of the purse, it's been like that since the Tudors, if not since Edward I. The Commission insists that their reforms would not compromise democracy but they are effectively, in Britain at least, repealing a fundamental democratic convention that predates the advent of proper democracy in Europe by hundreds of years (which makes it all the more fundamental).