Democracy for Europe

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Written by Eduard CHMELR   
Friday, 29 June 2007

Image Everybody got something – except for the citizen. This is how we could summarize the results of the EU summit that revealed how Europe currently misses such leaders as Schuman, de Gasperi, Spaak, despite the fact that the current stage of European integration requires such visionaries even more than at the beginning.

  • Even if Tony Blair praised himself that Britain changed her attitude towards the common Europe during his term, it needs to be said that at its end Britain returned back to traditional negative positions more typical of the former prime minister Thatcher. Today, the European idea does not have any strong defender among its leaders. This is one of the reasons why there is such a huge space for demagogy, when individual heads of state profile themselves as defenders of „ the national interests“, while they are somehow ignoring  that the citizen’s interests are completely elsewhere.

  • People are not against a strong Europe. People are against the Europe as they know her today. For this reason the quarrels about heading toward a federation or an imaginary and meaningless idea of a „superstate“ are totally irrelevant and miss the point.  The proper starting point for the debate is that little controversy surrounds the core package of competencies now existing at the European level; there are few interests in reducing these authorities. The problem is centralization of these authorities. The executive branch with strong influence of judiciary dominates in the practical politics of the current EU, while the most democratic and the most transparent body, the European Parliament, has only a minimal role in making legally binding decisions. Europe needs to „clean up“ her institutional architecture, she needs the standard division of power typical for democratic institutions, and she needs to strengthen the mandate of the people. This is not the agenda the G-27 leaders addressed. They dealt with much more „substantial“ issues such as: will there be a flag and anthem, what will be the title of the head of European diplomacy, and how many seats will individual states get.

  • Trust is thus disappearing from Europe. Missing honesty leads to foggy goals. Slovakia’s prime minister Fico is correct in insisting that the public neither understands nor is interested in the European constitution.  But the obligation of one of the leaders is not simply to repeat what he hears in the pub, but work to make sure that citizens have enough information for making their free decisions – otherwise he is not serving basic duties of a politician in democratic society.

  • Democratization of Europe was exactly one of the main reasons that, after the failure of the constitutional referenda in France and the Netherlands, the first trans-european political party, the Newropeans, was formed. Its members want to return to the original meaning of the integration movement, to prevent Europe from becoming ideological shooting field between the USA and Russia and to strengthen the voice of the people in European matters. This is the agenda on which they intend to run in the European Parliament election in all 27 member states in two years. They do not hide their hope to transform Europe into a democratic federation. There are no rational reasons to be afraid of this word. Honestly, the current integration hardly has any different meaning. It clearly is absurd, if the G-27 leaders reject the flag as a symbol of „superstate“ and at the same time decide to choose the highest EU representative from among themselves, without even considering a more democratic decision making process. They should finally come to terms with the fact, that „superstate“ is only a bogeyman serving suppression of democratic rights of the European citizen. The real transparent federation with standard division of power can only benefit the common citizen, as it necessitates clear rules defending interests of smaller states in the era of globalization. In this sense the European project has the potential to serve as the bearer of hope for other parts of the world that also strive for regional integration and could contribute to democratization of the world much more than all of Bush's wars put together.

(author is university teacher)

Published in Slovak daily Sme, June 25, 2007

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Last Updated ( Friday, 29 June 2007 )
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In memoriam
In memoriam
After a long battle against the disease Franck Biancheri passed away 30th of October 2012, at the age of 51. A great European, a militant democrat, a wonderful person.
Franck Biancheri was founder of AEGEE and founding fathers of the ERASMUS programme. He also was research director of the European thinktank LEAP 2020. In 2005, following the no of the Dutch and French to the Constitutional Treaty, Franck Biancheri founded the European citizens movement Newropeans.