Tuesday, May 07, 2013

EU politics: UK supports EU "democracy supervisor"

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Although it has been floating around for a little time and was reported on last month (illustrated above), only now is De Volkskrant getting into its stride, condemning the idea outright.

We refer to the initiative from the foreign ministers of the four countries Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Denmark, asking the EU Commission to set up a new watchdog, armed with suitable powers, to combat "democratic drift" in member states. The ministers want it to be able to impose sanctions backed by "progressive fines" when the EU judges that a member is not maintaining "democratic values". 

Although Dutch political scientist, Alfred Pijpers, writing in the Dutch De Volkskrant, dismisses the idea as "chutzpah", he notes that, at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 27 member states in Luxembourg on 22 April, the proposal won majority backing. All the ministers – including our very own William Hague – called on the Commission to work up the idea in the short-term. The only exception was the Czech minister. 

Thus, Mr Hague is agreeing, in principle, to the idea of a permanent, yet non-elected EU watchdog, a "regular supervisor for democracy" which would review the performance of member states and report on the "democratic deficit" each year, in a similar manner that countries report their budget deficit. 

But at least Alfred Pijpers does see the idea as a "travesty", which is more than our idle newspapers have done. He remarks that a Dutch minister should realise that he represents an ancient system in terms of democratic openness, legitimacy and effectiveness, which has a considerably better performance than the expensive and cumbersome EU parliament circuit in Brussels and Strasbourg. 

Given the lacklustre performance of our own institutions, one might hesitate to say the same, but perhaps Mr Farage, if he can tear himself away from potholes, might now actually devote a little of his precious time to what is going on in the EU. He could even devote some of the generous resources allocated to his party to telling us about such things. 

Not least, it would have done his election campaigns no harm for people to learn that our own foreign minister is supporting the idea of the appointment of an EU "democracy supervisor". This, after all, tells us rather more about the Conservative government's attitude to the EU than they would prefer us to know.