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Losing EU democracy over anti-crisis measures: A political debate

Leigh Phillips of the EUobserver yesterday published a long piece on how democracy is endangered by the current technocratic reactions to the crisis. While it is important to notice and to warn when democracy is in danger, Leigh’s observations are not that new.

More than two weeks ago, Shawn of the European Economic Policy blog wrote a piece called “Sometimes you can’t have both: democracy and the Euro” (covered by The Week in Bloggingportal at the time) and followed with another one six days ago title “The Government vs. The People: Greece and the EU“. It’s true that Shawn focuses on Greece while Leigh looks at Ireland and Portugal, but the core issue is the same.

In a different move, federalist Jon Worth, instead of highlighting the dangers to democracy argues that for the EU level this is democracy, highlighting the role of co-federalist Guy Verhofstad.

What all three are ignoring in my view is an important issue, one of balance of powers. Almost two weeks ago, the European Peoples Party issued a press release titled “Portugal: Passos Coelho expected to become EPP’s 17th EU PM” in which it also mentions in a “Note to the Editors“:

The EPP is the largest and most influential European-level political party of the centre-right, which currently includes 75 member-parties from 39 countries, the Presidents of the Commission, Council, and Parliament, 16 EU and 6 non-EU heads of state and government, 13 members of the European Commission and the largest Group in the European Parliament.

The domination of the EPP and thus the focus on a technocratic ideology has been installed by EU voters in successive elections both on the national and on the EU level. With over 50% of the member states being in its hand, the EPP is not just holding the presidencies of European Council, EU Commission (being one Commissioner close to an absolute majority) and the EU Parliament (being also the largest political group), the EPP also dominates the EU Council, no matter whether the presidency is EPP-based or not.

The reduction of democracy through power-based central steering backed up by a technocratic system of seemingly non-debatable rules is thus a consequence for a lack of balance of power in the EU; all EU institutions are EPP-led or -dominated. The only possibility to change this would be to successively change leaders and majorities through EU Parliament and national elections, re-installing a new power balance in the Union.

But getting rid of EPP domination will take a lot of effort (not least in the next European Parliament elections) – and a Europe-wide and EU-level opposition that is stronger than what we see to date from all the other parties.



2 Responses to Losing EU democracy over anti-crisis measures: A political debate

  1. avatar Craig Willy says:

    I think the EPP’s “passive dominance” is part of the problem. The Socialists do not seem to have any real plan for replacing them. If they were to have an actual Commission president candidate, e.g. just saying who they would nominate if they got a plurality, and had him campaign strongly, the dynamic of European politics would change significantly.

    Perhaps the consensual nature of the EU could not cope with this.

    On the other hand, the centre-right’s dominance at national level means they will be hit massively by the current crisis-driven anti-incumbency movement. They may win in Spain or Portugal, but there is a very good chance they will lose France, Germany and Italy (!). They have been getting systematically slaughtered in local and regional elections.

  2. avatar Anders says:

    The role of the EPP is really important to highlight. In the parliament I wonder about the absence of more dynamic organizing and alliance building between progressive MEPs. In the US Congress both the progessive caucus and more succesfully unfortunately, the Teaparty, have formed strong caucus groups driving agendas, despite their minority proportional role (ie. The Public Option from progressives and birtherism from the Teaparty).

    The EP groups on the left seem awfully dull in this comparison in terms of driving agendas. Or what is your thought?

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