Friday, June 24, 2005

Supranationalist 3

Concerning the democratic deficit in the present Union

To the peoples of Europe:

Until the process of ratification of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (“EU Constitution”) our Union had been created through a gradual technocratic process, away from the spot-lights of the public opinions of its member states. Some called this process of slow but steady bureaucratic progress, “doing before the hearkening”, others called it the Monnet method of EU integration. This strategy was arguably the only feasible way to create the Union between the bitter rivals that fought a 6 year-long bloody war among each other. Arguably, making the process of EU integration completely democratic at the early stages of the formation of the Community would be sheer political madness. As one of the writers of the Federalist papers argued:
…I am not much attached to the majesty of the multitude … I consider them [the people] in general very ill qualified to judge for themselves what government will best suit their peculiar situations … The science of government is not easily understood … [only men] … of good education and deep reflection … are judges of the form of a government.
This logic best describes the aforementioned, democratic-wary logic of EU integration. To a certain extent, despite heavy critique from numerous parts of the EU political spectrum, this method was for almost 50 years producing fruitful results. Prosperity, peace, and the seeming lack of political power on behalf of the EU institutions made the Europeans calmly accept that large part of their sovereign power was slowly but surely being transferred in the hands of the technocratic elite in Brussels. Today, when the so-called ‘European Social model’ entered a period of deep crisis, when the standard of living was no longer sufficient to satisfy the appetite of Europeans, democratic control of the EU became once more a reality. In this way the French and the Dutch rejected or at least froze the EU Constitution. Some are hoping that, they will be able, in a due course, try again and possibly get the EU constitution adopted in new referenda in France and the Netherlands. This will, however, not be the right way to proceed.

Referendum is not a suitable democratic instrument to express the normative expectations of the people in the European member states. This is especially true when one is supposed to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for more than 400 pages of a hardly comprehensible document. Internal political rationale is bound to overwhelm the considerations of the content of the Constitution. As the French and Dutch example demonstrated, people voted largely for internal political considerations, understanding very little of the actual constitutional text.

Is this to suggest that we should return to the ‘good-old’ Monnet method of EU integration? Not exactly. In the long run, such a strategy demonstrated significant flaws; without democratic representation the system can last only a limited period of time. Wise men can construct a system that can work well for a limited period of time, the bad side of such a strategy is that it is bound to be overun by a popular revolution. In order for the system to survive even in the times of hardship, not only in periods of prosperity, the people need to have a feeling of responsibility for the existing system, this necessarily means that they need to participate in its creation.

This is, however, not to be achieved through highly unrepresentative and politicized national referenda. We need to think of novel democratic procedures that are able to separate politics (considerations about the content of laws) from strictly speaking internal political party power considerations. One way to proceed in this direction would possibly be to organize a European wide referenda, but one should remain sceptical about the ability of such referenda to sufficiently distance itself from national political debates. At this point, a elaborated system of novel democratic procedure for the EU will not be outlined, this will be done in later editions of the Supranationalist. At point, it is important to spell-out the general formula that best describes the spirit of the new democratic procedure for the EU, that is a mixture between the government of the wise and the traditional models of direct and representative democracy.

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