03 December, 2009
7 The coming FIRE STORM on European Democracy. The Commission provides a poison pot
The European Commission has published a Press Memo called: Explaining the Treaty of Lisbon. Read it carefully as if you were enjoying a cup of tea — but treat it as if someone might have put lumps of poison in it. Remember these are the people who for several decades hid and denied the existence of the Europe Declaration. They still do. In this first Declaration about Europe's democracy, the founding fathers said the NEW Europe would be defined by countries where the people were 'free to choose' To hide such an important Declaration is a deliberate immoral act. Even more immoral is an act to deny any public consent while governments overturn a democracy.
When it comes to constitutional matters, any moral flaw is tested to destruction by citizens or leaders wanting or tending to corrupt it. Public revulsion will either eliminate the poison, or corruption will destroy a weak, morally-flawed constitutional arrangement. That final destructive stage amounts to a revolution or turning over of a corrupt and corrupting system. A constitutional system based squarely on moral principles will survive any test of fire. It will be rebuilt if necessary.
The European Community system is a treaty-based initiation of supranational democracy. It is still not working properly because governments have agreed to its five institutions but not to democratize them as required. Supranational democracy is the purest form of democracy so far initiated in practice. It is highly successful -- it brought Europe peace -- but it was immediately tried by fire. It has survived the attacks of nationalists such as de Gaulle. It is now being tried in a new fire: party political oligarchy.
'Democracy as defined by Robert Schuman involves being at the SERVICE of the people through actions AGREED by the people. It provides a democratic voice for nations, associations of individuals and for individual citizens. The rule of law is open to all. It has the means to provide the best practical solution to small and to global problems based on in-depth REASONED DEMOCRACY. That means the reasoned assent of different interests must coincide. Since its inception, supranational democracy has been supported by many who understood it. This is clear from the Europe Declaration that governments have suppressed. (Only Luxembourg to my knowledge has published it!) It was opposed by many who called themselves democrats (often combative politicians in conflictual parliaments).
Secretive Intergovernmentalism has been added by treaties like those of Amsterdam, Maastricht and Nice. The Lisbon Treaty tries to change what remains of supranational democracy by eliminating the voice of non-party civil society.
With the Lisbon Treaty we are entering a new period of trial and testing for the survival of real supranational democracy. The coming trial by fire will either burn its institutions or the undemocratic seizure of power by an oligarchy of political party machines will auto-immolate themselves to cinders.
The conflict that will take place is clear from this Memo. But be careful! It is in Orwellian PR speak.
Example. The Memo asks, ‘Why does Europe need the Lisbon Treaty?’ It answers 'To realize its full potential, the European Union needs to modernize and reform.’
That sounds reasonable. Who can be against modernization or reform? By modern most people would mean just and fair and correcting past wrongs and injustice. The truth is a bit different. The Treaty does not help Europeans have more democratic and responsible government. This is therefore a fib. What would be real modernization would be for governments to respect and observe the treaties they signed up to. That includes their specific obligations. They haven't even dealt with their bad school report.
It would therefore be modern for the Commission to become clearly more independent of all interest groups including political parties. Who wants it to be biased, prejudiced and partial? Instead, the reform has made it totally dependent on a party political oligarchy. Don't ask for an application form for Commissioner! The institution is under the control of two or three political parties. Who controls the parties? Under the the Treaty politicians have decided to exclude 98 per cent of the citizens from becoming a Commissioner. Normal non-political citizens have been kicked out off the Commission. It is probably the GREATEST ACT OF DISCRIMINATION EVER LEGISLATED IN MODERN TIMES. Is that modernization? Politicians seized exclusive control to secure their own interests. That is a corrupt act.
Though admittedly not impossible, it is difficult for politicians to be independent. Why? because the political parties are partisan. They are also a clan, an interest group. They are lobbyists. They are the biggest and most powerful lobby groups in the whole of Europe. Politicians have years of training and experience to fight for partial causes. That is the opposite of being trained to be impartial. Yet this dubious category "politician" is the only one the Treaty deems capable to be candidates. And they are chosen in secret. Hm, something smells fishy. Let's look further.
Modernization for the European Parliament would mean to have ONE proper, fair European election. It is NOT modern to have 27 separate national elections where the government parties in each Member State fix the rules to maximize their party votes.
The founding Treaties of Paris and Rome said there should be one single election under common rules for all. Governments agreed to this. They did not implement it. It has still not been implemented since then — nearly SIXTY year of undemocratic ABUSE!
First the governments led by Charles de Gaulle refused to have any elections at all. Other governments spinelessly acquiesced -- until 1979. That immoral act sowed the seed and harvested the bitter consequences. Five governments opposed de Gaulle and said they were more democratic. But they kinda liked the corrupt idea that they could choose who the people's representatives would be. They would definitely not be any one who went against party political machines.
The British Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin strongly supported this abuse. Worse he may have started the anti-democratic trend in Europe. He refused Schuman's proposals for direct elections, sixty years ago. This was to the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly in 1948-9. French parliamentarians, wartime resistance leaders, (may they be long remembered), riposted with vigour: 'Where can we go if we see old England abandoning democracy?'
It is exactly that British attitude of party political paternalism that has now been proclaimed as the central doctrine of the Lisbon Treaty. Party machines now believe they have a divine right to rule everything in Europe. They are wrong. Non-political civil society has rights too. People are losing confidence in politicians.
Faced with elections in 1979, the governments continued to fiddle the outcome. They do this by having national rules for so-called European elections. Some voters are getting the equivalent of ten or twelve votes compared with other Europeans.
Let's move closer to the origin of this poisonous mess. What real modernization would mean would be that the Council of Ministers would open its heavy doors to the public and the press — like the Parliament and other normal democratic institutions do. This is what Schuman said should happen. And he said all committees should be open to the public and democratic decisions.
Rather than modernization we have a great leap backwards into the dark ages. We have a secretive, unresponsive, political cartel and political nepotism. That is a seizure of power, without democratic consent. The people were not 'free to choose'. When they said NO -- three times at least -- they were ignored.
The Press Memo also asserts falsely that there will be 'increased democratic accountability.' How can there be accountability when the treaty renders it impossible to sack the Commission? See Debate commentary 2 and also my letters to the Commission, Parliament and Council on this. And the politicians have created a system were they can vote themselves whatever extra money they want. It is up to their conscience, without checks and balances. They can create extra jobs for their chums. No one in the Commission, Parliament or the Council will stop them. They all benefit; they are all fellow politicians. Will they exercise restraint or will their hands be in the cookie jar? Both hands are already in the jar, according to many observers.
The Memo also asserts that the citizens will benefit because the Lisbon Treaty provides a ‘more democratic approach to EU decision-making (strengthening the role of European Parliament and national Parliaments.)'
This is also patently not true. Look, I acknowledge that, so far, the politicians and their machines got their way after ten years of public disgust. Their chums got fancy jobs. But don't say it is democratic, when the people weren't asked. (The treaties both Constitutional and Lisbon, were written by politicians and agreed by politicians. The Lisbon Treaty was signed by politicians and benefits politicians. Europe's founding treaty of 1951 wasn't written by politicians -- that's another reason why the Europe Declaration which says so, has been hidden from public view. It describes how treaties for supranational Communities should be written, by whom and who should assent to them.)
Reform. The Lisbon Treaty does absolutely nothing to insure the Parliament reforms itself. (It is the Council that can refuse any reform.) At the moment the European Parliament and a number of national parliaments are unfortunately hardly exemplary debating chambers of free independent representatives of their electors. In previous times, parliamentarians made up their own minds. The best decided by what they considered to be the most enlightened moral criteria. Reform was often made in spite of politicians, not by them. Parliaments today have rather become political theatre for out-of-touch party political machines. The machines force parliamentarians to vote in one direction or another, according to party whips.
This is no way to run a highly complex, technical society when issues have to be decided, and politicians admit they do not understand the technicalities (from global problems to how their own poor live) and are overtly partisan about other issues. This was one reason why Schuman introduced supranational democracy, designed to deal with complexity. Presently national parliaments can come up with half-baked and quite unfair decisions. Does it help? Even if they have a firm opinion, it does not really count in Europe.
In the end, it is the Council, which decides in secret about what it really wants. The Council and the whole system is largely a European party political duopoly.
Whoever controls the parties, controls the dossiers of government ministers. Parties receive European funding from the taxpayers without asking the public's permission. The Commission, now free of non party members, is the secretariat of the political cartel. That is practically the opposite of how supranational democracy is supposed to work. The Lisbon Treaty is a politicians' wish-list, cooked up at night in secret by the Council's politicians, a rehash of the rejected Constitutional Treaty. Hardly a model of democratic consent that their grandchildren could be proud of.
The Treaty shows that the Council still has not got enough courage to have open debates when it decides. Ministers think secrecy is best for their policies for Europe's 500 million fellow citizens. That is paternalism. It does not reflect the original concept of five free and independent democratic institutions coming together to arrive in REASONED DEMOCRACY. Who knows what influences the secretive Council? What we have seen so far about their decision making procedures shows raw, ignorant power plays, not reason.
The Commission Press Memo asks: How will the Lisbon Treaty change the Commission’s role in economic and financial policy? It quickly answers — it hopes before the reader has time to reflect — ‘The Lisbon Treaty strengthens the Commission’s role as independent “referee” in economic governance.’
Nonsense. That is the reverse of the truth. It tries to cover over what is a political coup d’Etat by the political party cartel. The Commission is supposed to be as independent as the most impartial judge in the most impartial court of law. Politicians do not like independence — especially when it impinges — in this case heavily — on what they consider to be their own sphere of bombast. But the founding fathers said that the Commission should be INDEPENDENT — and for that it should NOT be composed exclusively of politicians but mainly of NORMAL human beings who inhabit Europe. I would not like to go to an independent Court of law based on the same principles -- where the judge is also an interested party in the dispute. The founding fathers, mostly Statesmen, were able to discern that fellow politicians often cannot be trusted. They decided that the Commission should be INDEPENDENT because interest groups -- call them lobbyists or cartels -- were expert in influencing politicians usually to the detriment of the wider interests of the public.
The previous treaties did allow the original principle of independence to persist in THEORY. In practice, especially since the time of de Gaulle, it became just lip-service. Politicians gradually edged their way into the Commission. The first were honorable enough to resign from parties. Then once the politicians had made a bridgehead and gained a majority, they refused to resign from their political parties. Then they took over.
The fib in this reply asserting 'independence' can easily be seen by the fact that today’s President of France was cock-a-hoop that he had got a very political Commissioner who would twist things in the way of French policy — or rather his own policy. He did not boast that France had the most impartial, independent and experienced candidate. That means he is the President's messenger, contrary to European law. We should not blame the French president in isolation because many of the other governments do exactly the same. By the definitions in the treaties about independence, that is illegal.
The principle of independence of the Commission is defined in the early treaties. They should take no instructions from any government, nor any other interest group. At the moment the Commissioners are the puppets of governments/ political parties. How do I know? They are nominated in secret by governments.
Did you see any elections for so-called 'national Commissioners' taking place? Or was I nodding off at the time? What of the famed Democratic countries? What of the Mother of Parliaments? If one country had a widely publicized election for ‘their’ Commissioner it would of course embarrass everyone else. What ever happened to democracy? It is all done with extreme rapidity in the hope that no one will notice how undemocratic the political parties in 'democratic' governments were. They put in their chums. Some governments sent off political chums to cool their heels in Brussels, because they were no longer really wanted at home. No eminent Europeans who were not proud possessors of party cards had a ghost of a chance. Nobody!
All the governments send these politicians to Brussels with a clear understanding about what they should be doing and how they should act. The Commissioners then use the Commission as a stepping stone for a political career. They resign when asked by the governments to do so. That is contrary to the treaty. It is also immoral.
Clearly the writer of the Press Memo had not looked into the treaties. The original Commissioners had to sign up to an agreement that they would not take a job in any sector of their European competence for three years after leaving office. That ensured their independence. Even that shows the treaty writers were rightly skeptical about human nature. To compensate, Commissioners received a sufficiently high salary and severance pay. Ex-Commissioners could also take a normal job elsewhere. But apparently this is not sufficient for the present greedy breed of politicians.
I am waiting for the first Commissioner to say they are voluntarily refusing any similar job after they leave the Commission for a minimum of three years after. And then there is the other side of the coin. It would be nice also for them to sign a document that they would refuse to resign from the Commission — if their home government, that is, their political party — offered them a ministerial post in their State.
Oh, I have only got to the first two pages and there is much more of this kind of PR poison to follow. No doubt we will get back to it again. I have the feeling that the real debate on Europe is only now beginning. We had no real debate about what supranational democracy is. The Commission provided no information about how supranational democracy works. And then there was the conspiracy of silence across the road. The Council of Ministers refused as long as possible even to publish the text of the treaty so that the public could not debate it. They said they would publish it after everyone had agreed to it. What sauce! And the Hungarian Parliament passed it without even reading it!
Unfortunately like a complex money-making racket invented in secret by people who profess little understanding of supranational democracy, we are in for the practical demonstration of the flaws in the cartel's coup d'Etat. Don't expect riots to happen tomorrow. It took years of abuse by de Gaulle with scandalous wine lakes and meat mountains, and secret finances, to bring Europeans to their senses. By then the Mafia, with their mattresses stuffed from Community funds, had built up a stronghold in the Italian south. Democrats elsewhere were askance -- and stayed away.
Schuman said that democracy is not something that can be improvised. He spoke of the thousand years it took for democracy to emerge in the history of Europe. May I live so long to see it come after all this! But it is sure that immoral rascals will not persist, and they will eventually be thrown out, one way or another. Democracy provides the means to throw the rascals out.
It is a great pity because all of us will suffer for the folly of a few greedy politicians. All Europeans are missing a far better form of democracy that would be of benefit to all around the world. And how the world needs it!