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Thanks for the considered comment, Metatone.  My hidden agenda, if I have one, is that I see the EU as having been an extraordinary success up until now, and one I would very much like to see grow and develop still further, but that it may be headed for the rocks for a number of reasons which I have already touched on in other responses here.

Chief of these reasons are as follows:

  1.  It has been enlarged without a prior streamlining and consolidation of decision making processes which means it risks becoming increasingly stuck in a morass of indecision in a world which is becoming ever more fast moving and which requires agile and visionary leadership if the EU is to achieve a political and diplomatic influence commensurate with its economic importance

  2. The remoteness, complexity, slowness and opacity of the decision making processes means there is an increasing disengagement by the public from the EU even in previously very enthusiastic members like Ireland.

  3. It has been seen to be ineffective when crises have emerged over Iraq, Srebrenica, Darfur, Guantanamo, renditions etc. - where the "values" people claim are embedded in  the EU project have been violated.  People will rightly ask whether the ineffectiveness of the EU on such issues is actually a deliberate strategy to mask the fact that such "humanitarian" issues are really of no concern and that the real business is about looking after the interests of the EU elite.

The Reform treaty should be a crucial document aimed at addressing these issues and ensuring that the EU becomes a more effective actor on the world stage and more accountable to its people, who in turn become more engaged and identified with it.  Does anyone truly belief the Reform treaty, even if ratified will achieve this?

In my view, a few key things might help to address these problems.

i) Possibly a directly elected President who becomes a visible embodiment and figurehead for what Europe is all about.  People want to know who is in charge and are not inspired by Government by committee.

ii) A European Commission operating more like an elected  Government - where commissioners are grilled by the Parliament on a more regular basis and are dismissed on an individual basis if they lose the confidence of Parliament.

iii) Greater transparency on the budgeting process and cost benefit studies on new spending proposals

iv) Replacement of NATO with a common European defense force and greater harmonisation/cooperation between police forces particularly on common threats like terrorism

v) Political parties campaigning on a Pan European basis and laying out their stall as to what future direction of Europe should be - particularly for the election of the Directly Elected President.  In this context the Greens, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Liberals etc. can argue their respective cases as to what direction Europe should go in and therefore what "identity" it will have.

Vi)  Speaking sociologically (and without a personal agenda on this!) I think the religion issue will be a major if not always openly articulated factor in whether countries like Turkey will be allowed to join.

Unlike Jerome, I do not think this is a technical issue to be decided by technocratic elite, but rather a political issue which should be put to popular vote.  The very fact that Jerome can speak of this as a technical issue highlights (to me) how out of touch the technocrat elite can be with popular sentiment and why there is such a growing popular distrust of what the technocrats are up to!  Ultimately it is for the people to decide what the boundaries (geographic, political, ethnic, religious, cultural) of the EU should be -- and hence its identity.

Far from engaging in an exercise in self-aggrandizement here because I felt I had touched on a hidden taboo I think it is incredibly arrogant for a bureaucratic elite to think that they can slip Turkey into the EU based on some technical economic and legal criteria without consulting with how the electorate feel about it.  

Including  a major country like Turkey (or Russia) would make a major change to the social, cultural and religious balance of the EU - and hence its identity - and the very fact that it can be considered to be merely a matter for the elite to decide highlights just what is wrong with the EU as a democratic polity.

I hope this elitist "we know what's good for you" approach does not permeate though the general mindset in the ET because, if so, there is no place for me here.


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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 12th, 2007 at 07:48:55 AM EST
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