European politics

by Henry on May 24, 2005

Interesting times for the European Union’s constitutional project. The French are looking decidedly wobbly on the new European constitution, which they vote on next Sunday. The Dutch, who will be voting soon after, appear to be strongly opposed. This all sounds dreadful for pro-Europeans. However, I’m going to make two predictions. First, the unexceptionable one – I don’t think that the constitution has much chance at all of being ratified. If it somehow gets over the French hurdle, it’s going to come a cropper at the British one. Then the risky one – I reckon that the European Union may be on the verge of acquiring real political legitimacy for the first time, exactly and precisely because of the vociferous debates which are starting to get going.

So why am I more optimistic than I have been for years about where European integration is going? A bit of a history lesson first. Political elites have bought into the European project from early on, on the basis that it means peace on the European mainland, and more trade and higher economic growth for everyone. But there’s been a radical disconnect between the EU’s rather vague, lofty aims of “ever closer union” on the one hand, and the actual day to day business of European politics on the other. Neither of these inspire much popular support or interest – while most European mass publics have vaguely been in favour of further European integration, it’s been because their leaders have told them that it’s a good thing. This has given these leaders a lot of leeway to do what they want at the EU level without the general public knowing what’s happening. It’s also allowed these leaders to blame ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ for choices that they have made themselves, but which they know will be unpopular with voters. In short, the EU is a political project dressed up in technocratic clothing – it’s succeeded in part because its day-to-day activities sounds so boring to outsiders.

The problem with this, of course, is that over time, the European Union has begun to leach legitimacy, as it has become ever more powerful and less accountable. Hence the long-lasting debate over the European Union’s “democratic deficit” and how best to solve it. The primary solution over the last fifteen years or so has been to give more power to the European Parliament, which on its surface is the most ‘democratic’ of the EU’s institutions. The problem has been that European voters don’t pay very much more attention to the Parliament than they did when it was a toothless congeries of windbags, so that the Parliament is accumulating power without much in the way of democratic responsibility (when people vote in elections to the Parliament, they usually appear to be more interested in rewarding or punishing the party in power in their national government, than in rewarding or punishing Parliamentarians themselves for their performance). The predictable result has been various shenanigans and shadowy stitch-ups behind closed doors (the so-called ‘early agreement process’ is especially non-transparent).

Thus, we have a set of institutions (the European Union) which are increasingly politically powerful, but which don’t have much democratic legitimacy. Andrew Moravcsik argues that this isn’t really a problem – he claims that the European Union institutions work under tight constraints that are set by the member states, and concern themselves with the kinds of technical policy details that are best handled through delegation in any event. But he arguably overestimates the degree to which democratic controls actually work to constrain EU institutions, and he certainly underestimates the political importance of EU decisions. Colin Hay makes a very good case that the forces structuring European economies are better understood as the consequences of the political decisions underpinning economic and monetary union, than of the abstract pressures of ‘globalization,’ however you might like to define it. While EU policy is shrouded in technocratic gobbledygook, it has very substantial political consequences. Nor are these consequences what you might expect. The European Union is typically perceived by English-speaking non-experts as a vaguely social-democratic bureaucratic leviathan, in part because of criticisms from the British government and the British tabloid press over the last couple of decades. In fact, its most important impact has been to further neo-liberalism by creating European markets, and by wearing down the particularities of national economic systems that are incompatible with these markets. The European Union has taken over vast swathes of economic decision-making, and effectively taken them out of democratic control. It’s no wonder that people on both the left and right are beginning to get upset by this; what’s more difficult to explain is why it’s taken them so long to begin to mobilize their frustration.

All this means that the traditional means of furthering European integration – agreeing new treaties among heads of government, and then getting them ratified by a supine public (when the public is consulted at all) won’t work any more. Nor will tearful appeals to that public to pass the Treaty on the nod, because of the inherent worth of Europe, gloire nationale or whatever-you’re-having-yourself work very well either. For better or worse, the European Union is becoming increasingly politicized. Nor is this likely to change in the future. But exactly because it’s becoming politicized, it’s starting to become politically present in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. As best as I can tell, the question is beginning to change from one of whether Europe, in some abstract and ineffable sense, is ‘good,’ to one of what kind of Europe is good (as usual, the UK is the glaring exception to this generalization). The debate over Europe is beginning to come together with the various national debates over models of capitalism and reform. This is especially clear in France, where Nicolas Sarkozy has been defending the European Union – but also arguing for a specifically neo-liberal model of what the European Union would be (we need the EU, he tells us, to overcome national opposition to painful but necessary economic reforms). In Germany, Gerhard Schroeder is planning to launch a Europe-wide initiative to protect the social-democratic model in a speech on June 13. And within the EU itself, the recent decision by the European Parliament to remove Britain’s opt-out from the Working Time Directive was portrayed by both sides as a blow in the fight over whether Europe should adopt a liberal-reformist or more traditional social-democratic model.

Thus, a new debate is beginning to emerge over what kind of European Union we should have – a Europe that’s more aligned with the social-democratic model, or a Europe that’s closer to the classical liberal approach; protection versus free markets. Very obviously, those who are starting this debate are in part motivated by opportunism. Schroeder has his eye on improving the SPD’s position for the national elections after the disastrous results in Nordrein-Westfalen (and shifting attention from his unpopular domestic reforms). It has surely not escaped Sarkozy’s attention that he’s defending Europe in terms that are likely to prove embarrassing to his personal enemy, Jacques Chirac. But the debate isn’t just about short term political gains (there are clear signs that the SPD is on the verge of a substantial shift to the left). Nor, I should acknowledge, is the neo-liberal side of this debate bereft of good arguments. Some of the European Union’s initiatives to create more competitive markets have had clearly beneficial consequences, weakened the power of national monopolies to trample over consumers etc. Furthermore, there’s a real danger that the more protectionist elements (including those on the right) will align with the people who don’t want Turkey to join the European club – something that would do real long term damage.

Underlying merits aside, the fundamental point is that these arguments are less obstacles to European integration than the birth pangs of a European Union in which voters actually begin to pay attention to what’s happening at the European level. The European Union is becoming a political space, in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. Ernest Gellner argues somewhere or another that the moment at which the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire became irreversible was when its peoples stopped complaining to the capital about how oppressed they were, and just started doing their own thing without reference to imperial politics. We’re arguably on the cusp of the opposite switchover in the EU – people are beginning to articulate their grievances with the EU as it is, and to propose alternative ways of doing things. Domestic political parties are beginning to align themselves with different models of what Europe should be. This wasn’t possible as long as Europe was a vague set of aspirations that political elites from left and right could agree on, but that the public didn’t care about. And it arguably lays the foundations for a much more robust European Union than has existed in the past. To the extent that the general public is aware of the EU, and that parties campaign on different visions of what the EU should be doing, the importance of the EU (and its legitimacy as a space for policy making) will be reinforced. Of course, there are plenty of things that could go wrong with this. The debates that are about to get going will be quite vociferous – it isn’t impossible that they’ll tear the Union apart, or (more plausibly) send it into another couple of decades of stasis. But these latter possibilities seem to me to be the less likely outcomes by a quite considerable degree.

Update: Laura Rozen has some interesting letters on the constitutional debates in Holland and France from correspondents in those countries. There’s also a very interesting story in the FT suggesting that Oskar Lafontaine is about to jump ship from the SPD to join other SPD dissidents, and perhaps the PDS in a leftwing umbrella movement.

{ 35 comments }

1

MikeS 05.24.05 at 1:52 pm

A great analysis, but missing the higher order solutions towards implementing democracy. It is my hope, for my children and grandchildren, that Microsoft will perfect an online voting software which will enable the world to speak and make politicians listen. The posited French NO is merely a symptom of a world in which more and more people are aware of how they are manipulated by a priveleged few. How do you suppose a Kenyan teacher with occasional internet access feels about GWB’s illliterate oilbound excreta? There is a revolution underway which we have only barely begun to comprehend.

2

abb1 05.24.05 at 2:02 pm

I don’t know much about it, but wasn’t the main concept of the EU more political than economic in the first place? I mean, I thought the idea was to ensure peaceful co-existance in Europe by means of more close cooperation. That seems to be working.

3

ogmb 05.24.05 at 2:37 pm

Helmut Kohl’s two disastrous legacies:

1. German Reunification
2. European Union

4

David Moles 05.24.05 at 2:42 pm

It’d be nice if the proposed constitution wasn’t such a dog’s breakfast.

5

nikolai 05.24.05 at 2:59 pm

Great post! I’m sure they’ll be an interesting and thoughtful response. I’ve two points:

(1) I don’t think lack of interest in what the EU does is neccessarily a problem with the EU or the EU’s fault. The EU does different stuff to national governments. The majority of people aren’t at all interested in the abtruse day-to-day business of government – the sort of thing the EU does. They’re interested in big issues – like tax and the NHS – rather than the (specialist?) stuff of trade standards and industrial policy that gets done by statutory intrument and rarely makes the headlines. People will never engage with this whether it is done by HMG or by the EU.

(2) I’m not sure the public has vaguely been in favour of further European integration because their leaders have said it’s a good thing. There’s an interesting argument about the philosophy behind the EU made by Weiler, a link is below. He says that people in EU states compromise their self-determination in the name of a cosmopolitan ideal of reaching out and being inclusive towards foreigners. The EU is a system for letting people in other states have a say in how your state is run (and vice versa), rather than excluding people just because of the arbitrary boundaries of nations.

I think the public (particularly on the continent) may be vaguely in favour of European integration on a philosophical level, because they feel the nation state is arbitrary, and would like to be more inclusive towards people in other nations by entering into a political union with them. The reasoning sounds better when explained by someone with more writing skill than I have:

http://www.policyreview.org/dec03/plattner.html

6

P ONeill 05.24.05 at 3:24 pm

Very interesting. One question that comes to mind is whether the EU has already gotten too “wide” to sustain the kind of political space that Henry talks about. It’s not so long ago that people used to roughly map Britain into a “widening” group and France & Germany into a “deepening” group, with the latter thinking than the former was just a Trojan horse for weakening the EU. And yet as we head towards a 27 member union, the “widening” group seems to have won. Does this Union capture a capture common set of themes from Sofia to Dublin?

I suspect not — that many of the hot-button political issues in each country are intra-Union and therefore that voters will fear the consequence of giving an overall Union more power to address them. Things like immigration, taxation, employment, out-sourcing. The No crowd in France has gotten a lot of mileage out of the “Polish plumber” meme. If these get perceived as issues subject to collective decision-making, that makes people see a lot of risk in stronger EU processes, as the Constitution offers.

7

Fifi 05.24.05 at 4:31 pm

The “widening” group has indeed won against the “deepening” founding members. But the wideners have been stupid enough to brag too loudly about it : Poland decision to buy F16s for its air force, Tony Blair’s red lines on, pfff, everything, Romania basing rights blowjob to the US (not even yet a member, already sticking it), etc. So the French and the Dutch are going to break the system they created rather than accept this hijacking. I’m ready to bet the German would have voted against this text, had they had a chance (referenda are unconstitutional in Germany, due to bad experience with the last few ones).

A neat upside of a no to this really crappy “Constitution” is that the EU is going to remain stuck with the perfectly dreadful and unsustainable Nice Treaty so our dear politicians are going to be forced back to the negotiation table willy-nilly. Except this time, they’ll have the public opinion very much in mind, for a change. May be something interesting will finally come out of that. In any case, renegotiation or not, a rejection of the “Constitution” will have the benefit of clarifying the political situation in Europe : that the current shape of European institutions has become unacceptable to a lot of people and that no amount of fiddling at the margins, as currently proposed, is going to mend the mess.

Break it, change it, dump it, start over, whatever but do something.

8

ab 05.24.05 at 4:40 pm

Great post, Henry.

Though I’m not sure economic issues (Anglo-Saxon versus Rhenish model) will be that important in the next couple of months (even perhaps years).

French and Dutch voters will stop the EU Constitution, which means it’s back to the drawing board.

Nothing substantial will happen in the next months because of election campaigning in Germany and UK presidency.

Germany’s new Chancellor Angela Merkel will bury the what-kind-of-capitalism-debate in favour of a (weak) adoption of the Anglo-Saxon model.

Instead, identity politics will return, especially the question of Turkish membership (to which Germany’s conservatives are fiercely opposed).

I can’t see an immediate return to constitution-drafting politics, instead a special summit will take the rather uncontroversial technical things out of the constitution (which is a lot) and pass a new basic treaty in the tradition of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice.

Difficult times for the EU…

9

Gorky 05.24.05 at 6:38 pm

If only Colin Hay would talk about the EU more in his lecture. That would liven things up!

10

jonathan 05.24.05 at 8:02 pm

@Henry: Very nice story about the EU and politics, but don’t overdo it. The EU-constition debate that is going on in Holland is still mostly about punishing the government, and maybe to some extent the diplomats in Brussels.
@mikes: this revolution is called: “?”. Having more information available only produces more questions, more words, complications, repetitions. this revolution is about having an uncertain future.
@nikolai: very interesting #2 + link. There is certainly culture in the way ppl interpret the EU as a way to help others, but somehow the effect is we are still making the other poorer, and our neighboors miserable and depressed.
@p. oneill: there is a movement in eastern-europe, there is hope in eastern-europe. there is fear in western europe, but mostly carelessness. You should visit bukarest, it is the most trendy place youve seen. youthculture, being a prime mover of culture is certainly becoming european. just give it some more 30 years orso.
@ab: the turkish membership-thing should and will be a very difficult issue, but if anything is about to brake/end confusion in the middle-east it is that. You can hardly imagine how it feels for me as an israeli-dutch citizen that Turkey will be in de EU. I think that the negotiations will be very tough for Turkey, as their economy is a nightmare.

11

Jerry 05.24.05 at 10:21 pm

The EU elites regard democratic opinion as a dangerous nuisance. But the people are gradually waking up to the straightjacket being fitted for them by bureaucrats in Brussels. A 500-page constitution? Please.

12

jr 05.25.05 at 1:00 am

I don’t see it passing. I think the euroskeptics have won out

13

bi 05.25.05 at 3:59 am

George Lakoff points out that the WTO has 900 pages of regulations, so I don’t see how a 500-page constitution is suddenly “elitist”.

And it’s not like many people even read the US Constitution in whole…

Oh well, as long as the EU doesn’t try to screw around with the rest of the world (e.g. myself), I say let them do what they will.

14

Doug 05.25.05 at 4:14 am

I like the basic thesis here quite a bit, and it will be interesting to see if it comes to pass. Some additional thoughts:

1. On why it’s taken so long to mobilize the frustration – Indignation about EU regulation of, say, the definition of chocolate or the noisiness of lawnmowers is difficult to channel. It’s good for a one-day tabloid snarkfest but not much else. Mobilizing the frustration for anything other than UKIP-style nonsense means actually having views on what the definition of chocolate should be and other such minutiae. Or at least having enough people with views on that sort of thing to articulate a program, motivate voters and so on.

2. On the direction of the debate – Henry’s thesis reminds me of an old Polish saying, “Polska tak, ale jakie?” roughly, “Poland yes, but which one?” In the century or so that Poland was erased from the maps of Europe, almost all Poles wanted a state again, but there was passionate disagreement about what kind. (Norman Davies has more. Much more.) This eventually proved very fruitful for Polish politics, and it might for the EU as well.

3. On Lafontaine – He still gets the good talk show invites, but forget about it. The left alternative list got 2.2% in NRW (about 0.5% more than the Republikaner and the NPD combined), in an election where a protest vote was a freebie. If Oskar wants to form a new party, the SPD should say don’t let the door hit you too hard on the way out. (And hey, did anyone know that the Zentrum, the great party of Weimar days, is still around? Admittedly, they only drew 1261 votes out of more than 3.3 million, but they’re still out there.)

4. Not that it matters for the politics of the thing, but I’ve read big chunks of the constitutional treaty, and it really isn’t as bad as all that. As someone fairly famous wrote, “Adopt and amend.”

15

Jack Lake 05.25.05 at 5:49 am

A more cynical view has the EU as decent economic vision and a malicious French and German attempt to become an empire once again. (And the Belgians can pretend to be very moral; remember the Congo.)

After 100 million dead in the 20th century, the EU is nothing but a bad dream. What is it with us, isn’t there 100 million strikes and you’re out?

16

Ray 05.25.05 at 6:07 am

The EU killed 100 million people in the last century? It must have been before Ireland joined – I’m sure I would have noticed it otherwise.

17

Henry 05.25.05 at 7:39 am

Thanks all for the good comments. On reading them, I think that I probably state my case a little more forcefully than the evidence warrants – but I do think there is something real and interesting here.

18

jet 05.25.05 at 8:04 am

Bi,
“Oh well, as long as the EU doesn’t try to screw around with the rest of the world (e.g. myself), I say let them do what they will.”

What? Once the EU Constitution is in force, the member states will stop screwing around in Africa and Asia? Riiiiight. European colonialism isn’t dead, it’s just more economic in nature these days. But still propping up dictators and indirectly killing people.

19

Damien 05.25.05 at 8:21 am

I’m pretty confident “propping up dictators and indirectly killing people” is not specifically European. Neither is economic warfare.

20

Ray 05.25.05 at 8:23 am

That sounds terribly familiar for some reason…

21

jonathan 05.25.05 at 8:33 am

What about this constitution making enlargement easier in the future?
How about an EU that incorporates northern africa and streches deep into central asia, by enlarging into georgia and the Ukraine?
I see the EU as a future tool to stabalise democracies and spread peace.

22

nikolai 05.25.05 at 8:59 am

“How about an EU that incorporates northern africa and streches deep into central asia, by enlarging into georgia and the Ukraine?”

I’ve heard this talked about – with expansion into the Caucus, deep into Eastern Europe, and North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Israel). Frankly, though, I doubt it will ever happen. There are all sorts of problems being raised with Turkey, and many people deeply involved in the EU project doubt the wisdom of further expansion.

It also gets much more difficult to add further members the bigger the club gets – given that any existing member can blackball a new nation from joining. Greece – for example – would have vetoed the 2004 enlargement if Cyprus wasn’t allowed to join.

This’d be a good topic for another thread though.

23

teekay 05.25.05 at 9:54 am

Guys, you need to work on your geography. Israel is about as much in North Africa as Ukraine or Georgia are in Central Asia. But the point is well taken: the EU *could* be a force for stabilization in transition countries but doesn’t seem ready to assume such a role. It lacks a strategy even for the Balkans or Ukraine and prefers keeping the latter at arm’s length, through a “partnership” that is explicitly not the first step towards membership. As far as Turkey is concerned, I expect — contrary to what many observers are saying — that the grand coalition that is likely to come out of Germany’s general election this fall will be even more anti-Turkish than the current government, and I suspect that Turkish membership might also become a (divisive) campaign topic.

Sorry for going off-topic. Great post, Henry, some of the most in-depth analysis I’ve seen anywhere.

24

Hugo 05.25.05 at 10:03 am

I’m a French resident, and you’ve misread Nicolas Sarkozy so I’m a bit suspicious of the rest of your argument.

As the chairman of Chirac’s party the UMP, Sarkozy cannot oppose the Constitution without gross, self-defeating disloyalty. However, if the “non” vote wins, he will be the biggest winner of all, politically. So while ostensibly claiming to be pro-Constitution, he has done everything he possibly can to sabotage the “oui” vote. He has vociferously voiced his opposition to Turkey’s entry into the EU, confusing the two issues in voters’ minds; he has done as little campaigning as he can get away with, even cancelling a major interview on the most watched news programme the other day. And he has, as you rightly point out, emphasised the neo-liberal aspect of the Constitution, with a view to scaring off Socialist voters, because it is the leeching of Socialist support that is really losing it for the “oui” team. (The moderate right is largely on-side.)

Europe has not been in any way a major part of Sarkozy’s political discourse over the past decade, and it’s wishful thinking that his talk of a neo-liberal Europe is some sort of kickstart to a real debate on Europe. It really is just political opportunism.

25

jlw 05.25.05 at 10:31 am

I’m an American, so feel free to disregard the rest of this . . .

But I’d like to see France, Germany and one of Spain and Italy take on the deepening task themselves. Is there a provision of the current arrangement that prohibits member states from political integration within the EU? If not. couldn’t three or four countries create a federal-style political union on their own, without the consent of the UK or other obstructionist nations?

A Bundesrepublik Europa (or what have you) would have enormous influence within the EU and beyond, even if it only stretched from Stettin to Seville or from Kiel to Callabria. And if it were established along non-nationalist lines–or at least with “nationalism” confined to fairly autonomous Länder or regions–then it could provide an attractive core to states willing to adopt further deepening.

Or something. I’ll remove the hat from my mouth now.

26

Henry 05.25.05 at 10:35 am

bq. I’m a French resident, and you’ve misread Nicolas Sarkozy so I’m a bit suspicious of the rest of your argument. As the chairman of Chirac’s party the UMP, Sarkozy cannot oppose the Constitution without gross, self-defeating disloyalty. However, if the “non” vote wins, he will be the biggest winner of all, politically. So while ostensibly claiming to be pro-Constitution, he has done everything he possibly can to sabotage the “oui” vote.

As noted above, “Very obviously, those who are starting this debate are in part motivated by opportunism.” and “It has surely not escaped Sarkozy’s attention that he’s defending Europe in terms that are likely to prove embarrassing to his personal enemy, Jacques Chirac.”

jlw – this is something that has been discussed under various headings (“variable geometries” was the buzzword a few years ago; can’t remember what it is now). Basically, it is possible for member states to forge ahead with deeper integration – but the politics become a little tricky given the already quite considerable interdependence among the existing EU member states. Perhaps worth a post in itself one of these days.

27

Doug 05.25.05 at 11:23 am

Henry – “I probably state my case a little more forcefully than the evidence warrants”

If you can’t do that in a blog, then where can you?

28

Eamonn Fitzgerald 05.25.05 at 12:53 pm

On Sunday night, those who were deluded enough to shell out for Mark Leonard’s book “Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century”, will feel very foolish indeed. Ditto for those who handed over their money for “The European Dream” by Jeremy Rifkin. How do these guys get away with this kind of hoodwinking? The world is moving towards a US and Asian-led economy in this century and Europe would prefer not to pay the price for what will be required to play the game as it will be tougher than anything we’ve seen so far. So, sorry, Henry, I think you are dreaming here.

29

Rik 05.25.05 at 1:54 pm

I’m Dutch and I will surely vote ‘no’. Prime reason: If you want a democratic Europe, this is the only option; with the ‘constitution’, there can be no democratic EU (read the document talk about itself as the Union this & the Union that…) Yuck! What: a Bundesrepublik Europa? Hello? Schröders reforms are in part failing because the länder have powers, separate from Berlin! The capital can hardly do a thing without their consent…

Though I must say, I’d vote ‘yes’ if the EU resembled a nightwatch-state.

30

jonathan 05.25.05 at 5:29 pm

It’s interesting you should mention that rik. In the previous European Parlement elections I voted “party of the north”. This is a local dutch political party, representing mostly the frisian parts of the Netherlands. Their stand towards institutional reform was a very refreshing one. They suggested the EU must be organised along region-line, instead of nation-states. These regions will be cross-national in some places, but will be optimised for cultural heritage AND economic weight.
This is offcourse fantasy, but if only it could get EP-momentum, I would like to explore this idea further, and more about the long-term developement of the EU.
I have similar threads on my blog, but how can I add to this? who do i mail?

31

Peter J. 05.26.05 at 7:52 am

As someone who writes what I have seen described as a “right of centre” weblog I find I agree with much of this post from what is described as a “left of centre” weblog.

The other day I noted that –

How the EU deals with a NO will demontrate just how grown up the “Union” really is, and how strong and resilient it is. In my view this is a test that is overdue – if the “Union” and its institutions can weather the storm of a rejection in a positive, and mature manner then the EU will be stronger for it rather than weaker. Rejection of the Constitutional Treaty, contrary to what some politicians have said, does not mean rejecting the EU.

32

Peter J. 05.26.05 at 8:51 am

I should have added that Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent remarks, about the referendums having to be run again, do little to inspire confidence in the ability of the EU’s political elite to deal with a “Non” in a mature manner.

33

robert 05.27.05 at 2:54 pm

Regarding the issue of expanding the EU to northern Africa and Turkey, etc…do whatever, just don’t label it as the European Union, because it isn’t Europe.

For the constitution, about 4 years ago in Finland, I told my one cousin that was asking me about the US – that the EU will last long…as the case is with the constitution, i feel that more and more people are realizing the true nature of the effects of continually expanding the boarders.

34

Paul 05.28.05 at 3:48 am

The supposed existence of a “democratic deficit” is often said to be a flaw in the EU. There is no “democratic deficit”.

The Council of Ministers is made up of the elected representatives of the members states. This is the most powerful body of the Union. The parliament is composed of elected members of the member states. The commissioners are appointed by the elected governments of the member states. That’s lots of democracy.

The decision making process is tortuous, it’s true. This is because the EU is composed of sovereign member states. Any stream lining of this process would make the EU look more like a superstate, which it isn’t and never will be.

35

Frans Groenendijk 05.28.05 at 7:53 pm

“But there’s been a radical disconnect between the EU’s rather vague, lofty aims of “ever closer union” on the one hand, and the actual day to day business of European politics on the other. Neither of these inspire much popular support or interest”

“The problem has been that European voters don’t pay very much more attention to the Parliament than they did when it was a toothless congeries of windbags, so that the Parliament is accumulating power without much in the way of democratic responsibility”

“But there’s been a radical disconnect between the rather vague, lofty aims of national politicians on the one hand, and the actual day to day business of national politics on the other. Neither of these inspire much popular support or interest”

“The problem has been that voters don’t pay very much attention to the Parliament”

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