In December — when no one was looking — Member States governments adopted their Rules of Procedure for the new Lisbon Democracy. You missed it? No wonder. This ‘agreement’ was definitely not agreed in public, for the public by the public in a public meeting place in Brussels.
It was all done more or less by post. (Written procedure). It says
Done at Brussels, 1 December 2009.
For the European Council
H. VAN ROMPUY
Done? The public certainly have been. The first of December 2009 is another black day for European democracy.
The newest institution of so-called European democracy confirms that the EUROPEAN COUNCIL wants to be SECRET. It is a way to get rid of the pesky press. The politicians can control the news-hounds like Pavlov’s dogs with ‘off the record‘ news feeds. That makes managed “democracy” so much easier.
Article 4 inset 3 says Meetings of the European Council shall not be public. (OJ 2.12.2009, L 315/51)
It does not say; Occasionally tired and delicate heads of government, after a long trip to Brussels, need some privacy. Nor does it say: As a democratic institution we will eventually open our doors to the public and the press as the Founding Fathers said all such European institutions should be.
It says that the rules preclude any of the Public EVER getting in.
This is the latest sad retreat from the Community democratic system to irresponsible intergovernmentalism. It is the last fling of effete Gaullism. Politicians like making their deals in the dark, away from public light. The ruling political cartel does not want any one to meddle if such a democratic institution or individual wants to argue with secret intergovernmental deals.
The new Rules say:
Without prejudice to the provisions on public access to documents, the deliberations of the European Council shall be covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, except insofar as the European Council decides otherwise.
And of course they won’t. It will take all 27 to say Yes. They will flip coins to take turns for each one to say No.
Europe’s new democracy — after ten year’s of the public’s resistance — will be like getting sardines, squeezed together in the dark, out of their can. It will require a legal can-opener.
The European Council may authorise the production for use in legal proceedings of a copy of or an extract from European Council documents which have not already been released to the public in accordance with Article 10.
Why should the Council be the only institution that remains an absolute disgrace to what should be the greatest democratic organisation in the world — the grouping of 27 democracies of Europe?
The European Parliament has open debates. It is a model for the world.
Despite some hesitations at the start (that is in the 1950s) the Consultative Committees — the nascent debating chamber for organised civil society — are open to the public.
The Economic and Social Committee is open.
The Committee of Regions is open.
The Commission is one of the most open institutions in the world.
The Court of Justice is open.
…. And the Council of Ministers ??? Hardly.
Now the European Council, too! SECRET!
While the European Council was not a real, legal institution, that is was not really an institution in the treaties, it could get away with the political equivalent of murder. It is still murdering democracy.
We now have the extraordinary sight of the President of the European Parliament attending the European Council — and he is made mute by the Council’s lack of democracy. The President of the European Parliament usually does things openly and before the cameras and a forest of microphones. When he addresses the European Council, no cameras are allowed. Radio journalists and their mikes are chased out. The public is excluded. A text may be produced. But the public and the press have no idea how the ‘lords and masters‘ of the European Council react or respond to the suggestions, criticisms and commentaries about their actions from the representative of Parliament.
In short the new rules have gagged Parliament.
General de Gaulle — who wanted to destroy European democracy — would be well pleased. His hand has made Parliament behave like a naughty schoolboy going to see the headmaster. De Gaulle thought that having to speak in a democratic debate in public was demeaning and undignified. He did not like giving reasons for his actions. He did not even tell his ministers what French policy was until he announced it. As for Europe, he preferred the ‘empty chair‘ ; he was not very much in favour of having any minister go there unless it was to collect money for wine lakes and beef mountains. Nor did he like a display of his henchmen arm-twisting and bullying the smaller States of Europe. The blood on the carpet might upset little old ladies. De Gaulle insisted that the Council should firmly shut its doors to the public.
All democratic chambers should be open to the public and the press, unless the public can be convinced there is a valid reason why they should not be. That is a basic principle of democracy. From the time when Celtic tribes assembled to debate matters in public, it has been so for a few thousand years.
And don’t give me that ‘Oh, if the Council is open to the public, they will talk in the corridors.‘ Parliamentarians talk in the corridors. But they have a debate in public.
Why? So that there will be a public record of what they say, how they say it, and why they are moved to say it. Only when the public — let us call them voters or their democratic masters — can have this evidence of their motivation, reasoning and quest for European justice, can they judge them. And fire them, if necessary. Maybe even congratulate them on occasion.
That is democracy. It is quite different from Gaullist autocracy. Had we forgotten? Schuman defined democracy as being ‘At the service of the people and acting in agreement with the people‘. Lincoln said it was ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people.‘ The new Lisbon system is now defined as being SECRETLY for the secretive politicians, by the secretive politicians and for the secretive politicians; people stay OUT, referendums and public opinion are of no consequence to us. Please go away and be ruled in silence.
If you don’t agree with me, please leave a comment telling me where and when the public had a democratic debate and agreed that the Council and now the European Council should be SECRET.
At the moment I feel quite free to speak out so boldly. At the Council offices, no one will be listening or reading this commentary . They’re in the middle of a cat-and-dog fight about who is in charge. Is it the Spanish national presidency or the President of the European Council? Then there is the latest debacle. The US President does not want to attend a Summit with Europe until he knows whose hand to shake first. In the Council the European cartel are still arguing about who is responsible for making Europeans look like a bunch of fools, and not only to the Americans over the EU-US Summit. The undemocratic cartel running Europe has made European government look ridiculous to the wide world.
These so, so, embarrassing matters shall not be open to the public.