Continuing our retrospective review of democracy as the EU interprets it. See On Democracy-1 first.
This is typical of how Jean-Claude Machiavelli sees the EU working:
“We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.” (from Jean-Clause Juncker, President of the European Commission, on the introduction of the euro)
Sometimes “what has been decided” is continued “until there is no turning back”, regardless of any fuss that may be kicked up (see Revealing Appointment-2). They truly are as arrogant as this quotation reveals.
But let’s take a more serious view than the not well-respected Jean-Claude can provide. From the Electoral Reform Society (ERS):
“The commonly cited complaint against this model is that one cannot have a democracy without a demos [Enoch Powell], a unit with which people can identify. [B]ut there appears to be little sign of a European identity and little sign of a desire for a federal Europe. This creates a fundamental problem: if European citizens do not want a federal Europe, then a democratic state should not be imposed undemocratically. A United States of Europe would therefore seem to lack legitimacy.”
The ERS specifies four principles for democratic governance: subsidiarity, representativeness, accountability and engagement. We would argue that, while these four are necessary they are not sufficient. However, the fact that the EU fails to qualify on each of these necessary principles justifies our claim that it is undemocratic (not merely ‘deficient’).
The EU should be accountable to its citizens. “Citizens must be able to reward or punish good or bad behaviour and the performance of those who make decisions. … Clear lines of accountability should exist between citizens and those who make policy on their behalf”.
We would add that citizens should be able to dismiss a government that does not meet their expectations. For that there should be formal means by which citizens can be engaged with their system of governance. (from Discontented Democrats)
Poll figures cited by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) show that “Nearly three-quarters believed their voice didn’t count in the European Union, and over two-thirds didn’t trust it. Perhaps that’s why turnout at the [most recent] European election was just 36% [from the UK].” (see Democracy Denied)
Here is the ideology in full spate:
“In the absence of a common discipline, in the absence of EU law that can override national law, in the absence of common supervision and a common court, there can be no mutual recognition of standards.” (Michel Barnier: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-1462_en.htm)
The democratic ‘deficit’ is illustrated here by “EU law…can override national law”. National law can be modified in response to pressure from citizens or their representatives and if the national government is not responsive then it can be dismissed; this is not true for the EU.
Three of the four items J-C mentions here are no longer absent. This missing one is “common discipline” and many current and historical events illustrate its absence (for example, Italy, Poland, Hungary, and not least the UK). It is this fragility risk in the EU Project that enthusiastic leaders of member states (and Remainers) refuse to face. (see Solidarity)
“…still a man hears what he wants to hear / And disregards the rest” (Paul Simon, ‘The Boxer’ 1969).
Fewer than 15% of those surveyed agree that the introduction of the euro in all EU countries would be “most helpful for the future of Europe”. And fewer still agree that a common army would be helpful. Both are priorities for the EU so will go ahead despite this lack of enthusiasm on the part of its citizens. (from Democracy or Institutional Strengthening?)
This implausibility is what the EU wants to hide; they want us (both member states and citizens) to believe that the EU is truly democratic and that the Union can deliver prosperity (while in fact they have done away with democracy).
To the EU mandarins “greater democratic accountability, legitimacy and institutional strengthening… means and requires more dialogue, greater mutual trust and a stronger capacity to act collectively.”
We can fairly take “institutional strengthening” to mean political union. This is too sensitive to make explicit and the authors (the Presidents) want us to believe something else, that the juxtaposition of institutional strengthening with democratic accountability and legitimacy carries a causal connotation: institutional strengthening will lead to democratic accountability and legitimacy. Or, to put it more bluntly but even less plausibly, the proposed political union is democratic and therefore legitimate. Much more plausible would be to claim that democratic accountability would lead to institutional strengthening. (From the Five Presidents Report – 5PR)
This section from 5PR on political union (strictly, on “Democratic Accountability, Legitimacy and Institutional Strengthening”) is, perhaps not surprisingly, thin on democracy, on accountability, on legitimacy and on political union itself.
All this comes about because the EU is founded on three conceptual pillars:
A: contempt for the inability of the nation states of Europe to bring and maintain peace, stability and prosperity to the peoples of Europe;
B: disdain for the inability of the peoples of Europe to choose their national governments wisely.
C: true government requires that voters are not able to disrupt the work of those who lead.
The arguments in support of these pillars are based on two assumptions. The first is that Europe’s nation states are not capable of delivering their own improvements to economic, democratic and social circumstances, let alone that they can collaborate, other than through EU-plus-EMU, to provide an environment that is congenial to efficient development. The second assumption is that a self-selected group of ex-politicians and professional bureaucrats has the ability to achieve what individual nations cannot. From these assumptions the conclusion is drawn that the nations of Europe must pass substantial responsibility for their governance to a central, non-sovereign authority, which the ‘professionals’ will manage to the benefit of all.
We can be sure that it is not possible to govern a flourishing community in a way that disdains its citizens and denies them active participation in governing themselves. To win active participation democracy is required: if democracy is disdained then some form of tyranny is required. And the EU is some form of (only relatively benign) tyranny.
The underlying tension between the EU’s demands for uniformity (dressed up as ‘union’) and the wish of citizens to have a say in their economic and legal systems is the fundamental weakness of the Project. This tension cannot be resolved by soft words as it goes to the heart of the EU’s ambitions. In the end the people will decide, with or without the compliance of their ‘betters’, and suppressing the popular will is the biggest risk the EU is taking. Consider, for example, the response of the French to the ‘Jupiterian’ President Macron, who largely support the protests of the gilet jaune.
We argue that an ideal government is representative in two senses. First, the citizens delegate the day-to-day operations of the state to their representatives, who then form a government. Second, at regular intervals the citizens can dismiss their government if it displeases them, and elect an alternative set of representatives to govern on their behalf.
We share the view, if not the cynicism, of HL Menken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
The founders of the EU decided that the only way to overcome the limitations that result from allowing the people to exercise their choice of government is to subjugate national governments to the dictates of a higher authority. Since there is no way for democratic regimes to be overruled by an un-elected higher authority and remain democratic, democracy has to be foregone and the supra-national regime has to be selected, not elected.
Unification is hard to achieve and sustain; it cannot succeed except by consent or coercion. Without consent fragmentation is the probable outcome. This is the major risk for the EU, which has neither democratic legitimacy nor military force to hold it together against the will of its peoples. The EU is an imposition by disdainful elites, over which the people have no say. (From Foundations)
We began our trilogy on democracy by noting how important this is to the EU, important that others follow the practice.