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Die!

Posted by Richard Friday, July 01, 2005

Barroso believes that "the time has come to listen to our citizens' concerns and reflect more generally on what Europe is for." So said he yesterday in a speech at the National Forum on Europe in Dublin, kick-starting his "Plan D of dialogue and democracy".

Reading his words, however (fortunately, I did not have to listen to them) does nothing more than bring to mind a wonderful scene in the 1996 film, Independence Day, starring Bill Pullman as US president Thomas J. Whitmore.

After his White House has been trashed by a gang of murderous aliens, along with most of the world’s cities, Whitmore ends up in Area 51 where he comes face to face with a captured alien. A translation machine is hooked up and the president asks the alien – a hideous creature – why their kind is wreaking such havoc? He gets no answer.

Trying another tack, our Bill suggests there is a way to co-exist, and asks it: "can't we negotiate?" Again, there is no answer. In desperation, the president asks, "Well, what do you want us to do?" This time, he gets a response. The hideous alien croaks out one word: "Die!"

This, essentially, is the only rational response to Barroso's plea to the "citizens" to reflect what "Europe" is for. Interestingly, he avoid the words "European Union", but the answer is the same. We don't want "Europe" to do anything. We want it (the European Union, actually) to go away and die.

Why there can be no "negotiation", much less co-existence, is amply illustrated in Barroso's own speech. While he talks at length about improving the "democracy" of the EU, this ex-Maoist clearly demonstrates that he has very little idea what democracy actually is.

Therein lies the core problem. Representing a political construct that is inherently anti-democratic, he is trying to sell us a bill of goods that is essentially fraudulent. No amount of trimming round the edges can turn the EU into anything approaching a democracy.

In fact, Barroso is not even attempting to "trim". From the very outset, he rejects any idea of changing the EU constitution. "Why is this?" he asks rhetorically, then answering his own question with the claim that "paradoxically, the Constitution is already designed to address the very issues that the 'no' campaigners have been using as arguments against it." The constitution, he claims, goes a long way to resolving the democratic deficit:

It gives the European Parliament a much greater role in decision-making, allowing it to amend and approve almost all new legislation. It throws open the doors of the Council when it is acting as a legislator, making it easier for citizens and national parliaments to monitor government positions. In fact, participatory democracy acquires a new status, with an entire title of the Constitution (Title VI) devoted to "The Democratic Life of the Union".

…the Constitution reconnects Europe with both citizens and national parliaments. It gives citizens the right to invite the Commission to introduce proposals on appropriate issues, if they can gather one million signatures in a significant number of Member States. And it gives national parliaments important new powers to enforce subsidiarity. They will be given early warning of all new legislative proposals from the Commission and the possibility to send them back
for a rethink.
With that, he says, the constitution is already the best possible compromise. It represents a delicate balance of competing views, which contains many improvements to the way in which the EU carries out its business. That is why there is no plan B.

Deconstructing these claims, we find again the use of that word "reconnect". This is part of the self-deception – delusion, even – of the élites , whereby the project was in the past somehow in tune with the "needs of the citizen" but has lost its way and must now be brought back on track. The lie is, of course, that the EU has ever "connected". It has always been an élite project and, therefore, any suggestion of a "reconnection" is a fraud.

Then, says Barroso, the constitution: "gives the European Parliament a much greater role in decision-making, allowing it to amend and approve almost all new legislation." The lie here is in the implication that the EU parliament is democratic.

Some people (and many who should know better) make the genuine error in believing that, because MEPs are elected, the institution to which they belong is necessarily democratic. But this, as we have pointed out before, is to confuse form with substance.

For an institution to be democratic, its members must be elected within the framework of a demos and, as we all know, there is no European demos. Far from being democratic, the EU parliament is a supranational institution which takes power from nation states – the reservoir of true democracy. It is inherently anti-democratic.

For Barroso’s next trick, opening the doors of the Council, for sure that is an improvement - but not one of substance.

Next, tucked into Barroso's speech is a fleeting reference to "participatory democracy", passed by so quickly you might miss it. But this is at the heart of what the constitution proposes and its very existence undermines our own democracy. We live under a parliamentary democracy, where we elect our MPs, who then represent (in theory at least) our views. In other words, it is a representative democracy. What the EU is trying to do is by-pass our representatives by appealing direct to the "citizens" – and thereby destroy our form of democracy.

Such is the claim that the constitution "gives citizens the right to invite the Commission to introduce proposals on appropriate issues, if they can gather one million signatures in a significant number of Member States." This, in essence, means that a million citizens, from other countries, can seek to impose their will on citizens of other sovereign nations. That is not democracy.

And then there is the usual canard. "It (the constitution) gives national parliaments important new powers to enforce subsidiarity. They will be given early warning of all new legislative proposals from the Commission and the possibility to send them back for a rethink."

There are two lies here. Firstly, there is no power to "enforce" subsidiarity. National parliaments can only request the Commission to rethink. It is not obliged then to change its mind. Secondly, national parliaments already have this power. By taking "ownership" of the power – and by imposing conditions on it – the constitution seeks to demote otherwise sovereign parliaments to the position of subordinate institutions. Again, that is not democracy.

There you have it. Under the guise of offering "Plan D of dialogue and democracy" the man is peddling lies. You need go no further with the speech. You really cannot debate with a man who bases his appeal on a platform of lies. As far as his institution goes, the alien has it: "Die!"