Thursday, August 19, 2004

Governance by management not politics - #1

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the way the EU is governed. It is generally assumed that there is some resemblance between the ways legislation is passed in Brussels and in, say, London.

The idea of passing legislation for 25 highly disparate members is a somewhat fatuous idea, but this does not bother the eurocrats very much. They see the burgeoning state as a vast bureaucracy that is to be governed by management not politics, let alone democratic politics.

We hope to follow this theme up in future blogs. For the moment, let me give one telling example. The European Commission has announced its intention to review community legislation on labelling. This is a long term exercise, with date of completion projected for 2010.

That could be just the date of completion of review or the date when all the legislation, directives or regulations or framework directives or whatever, are passed, possibly by co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

The following stage will be the tortuous but legally required implementation of the new labelling legislation by whatever method in the member states. We are talking of a ten year plan at least.

Theoretically, all sorts of things might happen in those ten years, not least elections in the member states and to the European Parliament. But the labelling legislation review that will produce a huge crop of detailed, highly intrusive, controlling legislation and regulation, likely to be harmful to small and medium sized businesses and innovatory practice, will go on and on.

As the British Labour MP Gisela Stuart once said in a fit of semi-understanding, the British Parliament simply does not think in the same time frame as the European Commission. Well, it cannot. It has to abide by the constitutional rules that demand a mandate for the main legislative body, the House of Commons. But however democratic, constitutional and accountable the British Parliament is, it cannot reject the legislation that is produced in those long term exercises behind closed doors in Brussels.

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