Thursday, June 02, 2005

My thoughts exactly

From GAUCHE, on the French and Dutch "No" votes to the European Constitution.

Paul Anderson writes:

The Dutch have voted "no" too, which makes it pretty much inconceivable that the Brits will hold a referendum, which means that the European constitutional treaty is dead. Cue sighs of relief all round for Tony Blair and his government, crowing from Eurosceptic chumps
et cetera – but what now for Europe's institutional arrangements?

It's clear that the French and Dutch referendum results were rejections of the institutional status quo as well as of the treaty's proposals (even if they were also about other things). And the key point that everyone sensible in the "no" camp was making was that the EU was
insufficiently democratic and open.

So something needs to be done soon – if not tomorrow – to establish the EU's democratic legitimacy. Part of that must include opening up its workings more to the scrutiny of national parliaments. But in the end I
can't see any solution other than increasing the credibility of the European Parliament. And that means massively augmenting its powers over the Commission and the Council of Ministers as well as clamping down ruthlessly on expenses scams.

In other words, the French and Dutch votes make the case for a democratic federal European polity stronger not weaker.

Couldn't agree more. People complain about not having any influence on decision-making at the EU level, and yet only a small percentage of us actually bother to vote when it comes time to choose our MEPs. And is it any wonder? I remember sighing in despair as I sat through a Structure of Government course taught by Mr. Anderson himself, as he struggled to make us understand the differences between the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council, the Coucil of Europe and the Council of Ministers. Actually I think those last two are the same, but who can be sure? Not your average voter, I bet.

Right now the EU is seen by much of Western Europe as a bloated, self-important, bureaucratic mess, more concerned with lofty ideology than matters of practical relevance. The fact that it was two EU founder-members with some of the strongest ideological beliefs in Europe that slapped down the Constitution speaks volumes. Simplification is what we need, and I think the real test of success for the EU will be the voter-turnout figures at the next European Parliamentary elections in four years' time. If Brussels wants us to be excited about the new Europe, they'll have to try harder than this.


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