A Brussels antithesis reveals where the EU is heading

From left to right: Mr Olli Rehn, Vice President of the European Commission, Mr Michael Noonan, Irish Minister for Finance. Press conference after the Ecofin Council of 5.3.2013. (The Council of the European Union photographic library).

From left to right: Mr Olli Rehn, Vice President of the European Commission, Mr Michael Noonan, Irish Minister for Finance. Press conference after the Ecofin Council of 5.3.2013. (The Council of the European Union photographic library).

Yesterday in the Ecofin Council in Brussels, a handful of politicians from EU’s member states, away from their constituencies, left to be ‘guided’ by the European Commission in mortgaging to the EU’ bureaucracy their counties’ financial sovereignty, by approving the “two pack” directives. On the same occasion they created the clan of the ‘undead’ banks that is, the private financial firms which by being officially proclaimed as ‘systemic’, are bound to live for ever. On the same day however, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), representing authentically the civil society organisations from all Member States, announced that according to a survey Europeans believe in participatory democracy.

The antithesis between those two events gives a more or less clear depiction of the huge democratic deficit in the EU functioning. It is even more worrisome, that despite the enhancement of the role of the European Parliament, there is less and less democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in the Brussels’ structures. Let’s elaborate a bit on these two events.

The Brussels’ antithesis

On the one side, yesterday a historic event took place in the Ecofin Council, where a few people decided to subordinate the member states government budgets to the Commission’s discretion. This development exceeds by far the changes contained in the “European Constitution”, which was gloriously rejected in two referendums in France and Holland some years ago.

On the other side the fence the European Economic and Social Committee tried yesterday to save whatever relics of democracy can be saved in Brussels, by commissioning a survey on citizens’ democratic preferences and aspirations.  According to the EESC this “Flash Eurobarometer measuring citizens’ engagement, shows that Europeans trust civil society organisations to influence policies and make a difference in the life of their communities”.

Judging the findings of the survey ‘e contrario’, it is obvious that everyday people do not trust the mainstream political parties and authorities and even less the political horse-trading of Brussels. Instead, they try to create a better environment for themselves, by engaging in “participatory democracy activities, including signing petitions and becoming active members of non-governmental organisations, mainly at local and national level”.

Still everyday people are sceptical if such activities can influence the European Union decision-making process. According to the EESC, “civil society organisations are regarded in the survey as more likely to influence decision-making at local and national level (75% and 70% respectively) than at the level of the EU (53%)”. As a matter of fact the average European citizen feels alienated from what happens in Brussels. This fact supports those who see a growing democratic deficit in the doings of the European Union. Unfortunately no EU leader seems worried or working to reduce the absence of democratic accountability in the EU affairs.

In short, what happened yesterday in Brussels is very characteristic of where the EU is now heading. On the procedural level all decision-making is definitively taking place away from the many. The word ‘referendum’ is completely forgotten by all and every EU dignitary. The initiative by the British Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a referendum, on his country’s position in or out the EU, has nothing to do with democracy in Brussels. It is a just an internal British political issue, related more to Cameron’s position within his own political party, with no relation whatsoever to the democratic deficit in the European Union.

As for the subject matter of yesterday’s decisions in the Ecofin, they are designed to bind the weak member states to the Brussels bureaucracy and its masters in Berlin, Paris and why not London. The “two pack” directives provide an EU prerogative, over the fiscal policy in all and every member state. Knowing however the way the EU functions, the screening will be much more exhaustive for the small countries.

As for the official acknowledgement that some European banks are more ‘systemic’ than others, it denounces again that Brussels develop bit by bit a mentality favouring the freezing of the business scenery in the financial industry. What exists today as major banking firm is guaranteed to continue as such. By the same token it’s like trying to secure the banking sectors’ prerogative over the economy and the society as a whole. This is neither democracy not even capitalism.

In reality the Brussels bureaucracy can decide now on how the 27 member states will spend their money. Apart from that it also tries to create nothing less than a new economic system, by exorcising competition from the financial sector. Of course Berlin and Paris are not innocent of those developments.

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