Europe's Democratic Future: Falsified or Fit?
There is a solution
European democracy is entering its eighth decade since the Schuman Proposal of 1950. The Conference on the Future of Europe wound up in Strasbourg today. Will it help the average citizen?
What does the watchman see ahead: fog or clear waters? Where is the European ship of Democracy headed?
Nearly four out of five Europeans want more say in decisions of the EU, according to a recent Bertelsmann Report, Under Construction, Citizens participation in the European Union. It lists seven instruments that the politicians have designed to give an appearance of participation.
None of them are satisfactory.
European Parliament elections.
European Citizens’ Initiative
Petitions to the European Parliament
Public policy consultations by Commission services
Citizens’ Dialogues (town hall meetings)
European citizens’ consultation online by Council .
The Conference has produced nothing that will make a substantial difference to today’s dismal distrust of Brussels.
How to judge? The core issue is democratic control of laws, money and strategy. Adding more ‘people’s initiatives’ and ‘consultations’ won’t cut the mustard for people’s control of untrustworthy elites. They meet and decide in secret. They can ignore everybody else and invent reasons for actions that suit themselves. Secrecy is vital for tyranny. The North Koreans know this well.
Knowledge is power for leaders; that’s why politicians often enforce ignorance for the public. That’s the way tyrants keep power.
Autocrats’ desire to keep secrets may be the essential reason why the elites have refused to publish the original documents that described how Europe should really work and describe citizens’ rights to information and control. These tools would unzip modern tyranny.
Correcting this abuse is a major challenge. Schuman’s Proposal was a work of supreme genius. Who else could create peace and prosperity after 2000 years of continuous war? There are few people of his metal today.
Can Democracy work in Europe?
Is the EU doomed to failure as a democratic experiment? Not at all.
The facade of many 'dialogues' and 'initiatives' hide and cover up the real duty of leaders to follow the treaties and for honest governance. Even the treaties that politicians invented for their own benefit contain and retain principles of real and effective democracy. They just ignore the parts they don’t like.
Instead of openness, Europe has closed-door Councils ruling the roost, dishing out taxpayers' money according to their own rules. There are no published records of their debates, nor public access. Hence no accountability and no public trust.
What is the solution?
First, blow away the fog. Europeans have legal rights far beyond these inadequate, fig-leaf instruments that have little or no legal effect.
Leaders of three EU institutions pledged on 19 April 2021 to have an in-depth analysis of how the present 'democracy' differs from the original democratic framework and human rights safeguards drawn up at the start of the European Community in the 1950s. What really happened that the public is now so disdained?
Re-publication is an obvious first step to reverse the Democratic Deficit that the public have complained about for decades. Parliament is open; Council is closed.
Distrust is the inevitable result of politicians' disdain. The public in their Referendums rejected government by secretive councils. Each treaty with more secret bureaucracy was resisted time and time again.
Democratic fiascos followed the politicians plans for the Maastricht, Nice, the Constitutional, Reform and Lisbon treaties. Member States had referendums that rejected all these treaties. Public opinion was ignored or the public was told to reverse their vote.
What happened on the first and therefore the most important treaty? No referendum, no public debate even, was offered on renewing the foundational European Coal and Steel Treaty in 2002. It was stopped. Result? Disaster in the steel and energy economies.
And a decade later? Brexit was the inevitable result. The British referendum was actually based on a treaty the British public had never agreed to, and the French had rejected! (compare the Constitutional's Article 59 with Lisbon’s Article 50: they are practically word-for-word the same).
Conclusion: For decades the political leadership has failed the people.
Where are the goods?
The leaders failed to look at the original Schuman design for European democracy. In spite of my several complaints to the Ombudsman they failed even, as a bare minimum, to agree to publish the original constitutional documents. The Charter of the Community outlines how Human Rights should dictate fair and honest institutional development. (See https://schuman.info )
Schuman and the Founding Fathers envisaged, for example:
Institutions open to the public and the press. The Lisbon treaties still repeat this requirement, see TFEU #15
Consultative Committees shall be directly ELECTED to represent organised European civil society (industry, consumers, workers) and Regions. They would have revising powers to the Commission’s Proposals similar to the Council of Ministers (Schuman in Council of Europe, Aug 1950, Reuter etc).
Commissioners should be unbiased arbiters and independent of political parties and lobbies etc. See their Oath in ECJ. Nor are they presently 'selected' properly and openly to public scrutiny as with the original High Authority.
Parliament should be elected on the principle of one person one vote, not by the present system that gives some people 10 or 12 vote equivalents. TFEU 223.
And so on.
How to start?
The same medicine is required in Brussels as in North Korea. The first step is for the public to insist that the Council of Ministers obey their own treaty. Their debates should be published. The press should be allowed to follow all aspects of the debate. The public should see it all on television and the internet. Only when ministers become accountable will a semblance of democracy begin to glimmer through the opaque panes of the Justus Lipsius building.