“The EU is not fundamentally undemocratic; it simply needs to be judged by a different democratic standard than nation-states.”
This is the title of a blog at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/09/10/democracy-nation-state/?utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=99b5e *
And I have rarely read anything so unintentionally funny. It is not so much beyond satire but in another satirical galaxy. The authors have added yet another meaningless phrase to the ruination of the English Language to go with the likes of ‘subsidiarity’. This one is ‘demoicracy’. It is not – as I first thought – democracy pronounced by a New Yorker. It is the form of accountability required by the EU because we cannot judge it by the democratic standards we require for our governments. Or indeed our local Parish Council, which, therefore, must have far less influence on our lives than the EU. Although, in fact, local parish councils probably do far more good.
The blog consists of an enormous amount of academic gobbledygook. I can recognize this; I used to write a lot of it myself. The most entertaining paragraph though is this:
“We find that the EU heeds the core principles of demoicracy quite well. First, no statespeoples are forced into membership, exit is possible, and every state has a right to veto new treaty rules. In addition, the EU has established a comprehensive non-discrimination regime and a bicameral legislature representing both statespeoples (in the Council) and citizens (in the European Parliament) and deciding predominantly by co-decision. Finally, the supremacy of supranational law is a fundamental principle of the EU but regarding the sovereignty of statespeoples, there is de facto constitutional co-jurisdiction exercised by the European Court of Justice and the constitutional courts of the member states.”
It was at this point I collapsed into hysterical laughter. Let’s just Fisk this. It is true that no ‘statespeople’ are forced into membership, but because of the nature of ‘functional integration’ the ratchet that continuously moves the Europe Union into the direction of a country called Europe, to suggest that we have a right of exit is untrue. That right is circumscribed in the extreme.
For instance, in an interview with the Telegraph on Saturday 8th December Owen Paterson who, I suspect, would get us out of the EU tomorrow if he could, stated that ‘we want our country back which means making our laws in our own parliament’ but, he noted that in his department alone there are 40,000 pages of environmental regulations that originate somehow (sic) in Europe. “You can’t just chainsaw them,” he says. You would still need laws to regulate the health of farms and the safety of abattoirs. This makes nonsense of the claim by the blog there is a right of exit. The whole European project is designed to make exit as difficult as possible. No one wants to get out of the EU more than I do. It is vital for the economic, social and political revitalization of our country. But no one should pretend breaking this particular ratchet would be easy.
Equally amusing is the idea that states have a veto. Yes well, tell the French, Dutch and Irish people who vetoed the European Constitution in a referendum that. The EU’s attitude to vetoes and democratic votes are; ‘we’ll make you vote again until we get the result we want. We don’t actually care what you think.‘ We are not so much talking European Demoicracy as European People’s Demoicracy or possibly the European Demoicratic Republic.
Finally, the blog talks about ‘de facto constitutional co-jurisdiction exercised by the European Court of Justice and the constitutional courts of the member states’. In no way can this be seen to be any form of democracy. The whole point of constitutions is that they should be difficult to change – unless you happen to be French – but when they are changed it invariably happens as a result of major political, cultural or ethical shifts within the country in question. At the moment, in Britain, I think we may well be undergoing just such a cultural shift, particularly in terms of attitudes to human rights legislation which is being viewed with increasing hostility by just about everyone, apart from Lib Dems, Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve. It is precisely the type of cultural shift which in the past would have led to establishment ructions, riots, political crises, the Duke of Wellington’s windows being put out and a King driving to parliament in a Hansom cab to threaten to create enough peers to pass the relevant government legislation (well maybe not the last two, but political crises were so much more fun in the 19th century).
Now, because of the ‘co-jurisdiction’ in Europe, that won’t happen, a political crisis also becomes a crisis in our relationship with the EU. It means as well as crisis in domestic politics, it is Europeanized and it becomes a threat to the ratchet of further European integration. Invariably, under pressure from their European peers, national politicians back down. There are two potential consequences of this, either pressure builds up to an eventual explosion, or apathy reigns and people become more and more disillusioned with, and divorced from, the democratic process. The current situation in Greece is a perfect example of this. In any event, it means that Europe is destructive to democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. To say, as the writers of the blog do, that we cannot judge Europe by the democratic standards by which we judge our own countries is factually correct. It is so because, since its inception, Europe has been designed to be fundamentally undemocratic. It has never been about the ‘demos’, the people. It has always been about elites – a term which, etymologically, is derived from the idea of a chosen person or persons. People who want the EU are those who see themselves as chosen to rule it. That is why Jean Monnet initiated the idea of functional integration to begin with, because it did not require the consent of the ‘demos’, the people, effectively you and me.
It is time to realize that and get behind the demand ‘we want our country, and indeed our democracy back’.
*Hat tip for this article goes to @charlescrawford who generously shared this on twitter