Friday, 25 May 2012

The Economist on the EU: "All the putatives responses to the democratic deficit are being found wanting"

The European Parliament: "almost always in favour of new regulation and always in favour of more spending."

The fact that the European Union is a deeply undemocratic structure, driven by the political elites, has been clear for years now. In an interesting article the Economist offers this thoughtful analysis of the EU´s democratic deficit: 

Now the crisis has struck, all the putative responses to the democratic deficit are being found wanting. The qualified majority voting introduced by the Single European Act of the 1980s and the subsequent enlargement of the union mean that nations, especially small ones, can frequently feel marginalised, and their electorates voiceless; the system is opaque, complex and remote. Countries outside the euro zone are not party to some decisions, which can make them fear marginalisation; the “six pack” of fiscal regulations agreed last year and the newly devised fiscal compact erode even further the ability of a government within the zone to control its own fate. Crucially, the pact imposes fines on governments in breach of its strictures automatically, unless a qualified majority of all the others votes against doing so. In 2002 Francis Mer, newly installed as French finance minister, dismissed commission requests for budget cuts to comply with the stability and growth pact by saying that “France has other priorities.” Pierre Moscovici, François Hollande’s new finance minister, stands no chance of being similarly highhanded. This lack of governmental override worries not just debtor nations but also some creditor countries such as the Netherlands—and even German states.
The other responses to the democratic deficit look even more tattered. Output legitimacy is a hard sell when the outputs voters use to reach a judgment are a crisis they didn’t create and austerity they don’t want. The idea that the EU is all about distant technical adjustments is laughable now that the euro is impinging on many basic functions of sovereign national governments, most obviously in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but also in all the parties to the fiscal compact. If the euro is to survive, it will likely do so by impinging on them yet further.
And what of the European Parliament? It has, if anything, widened the deficit it is meant to make up. It has increased its powers with every EU treaty, including the fiscal compact; but it has seen no parallel growth in its legitimacy. In the commission and in national capitals alike, frustration with the parliament has been growing. It is almost always in favour of new regulation and always in favour of more spending. Any claim that this is what the voters want is undermined by the fact that the voters show ever less interest in it. At every election for the European Parliament since 1979, the turnout across the continent has plumbed a new low (see chart 2). National elections see higher turnouts almost everywhere.

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