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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.

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