Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
you have to concede that those minors whose populations have been concerned about the lack of transparency, accountability and bottom-up decisionmaking have not accomplished much.

That's partly because recent enlargements, though they increased the weight of small EU members, did so by bringing in governments uninterested in such progressive change and populations too cynical to even expect this of them. (I say this as a sad inhabitant of one.)

I do believe that if our governments had been serious about pushing for it, Something Would Have Happened

On an even darker note: if the populations had been more serious about this, they would have forced their governments to be more serous about pushing it. In my view, there is a quality of self-fulfilling prophecy about Scandinavian Euroscepticism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 12:55:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's partly because recent enlargements, though they increased the weight of small EU members, did so by bringing in governments uninterested in such progressive change and populations too cynical to even expect this of them. (I say this as a sad inhabitant of one.)

I don't buy that. The transparency and accountability problem was there long before the expansion. I don't know whether the expansion made a difference one way or the other (on the one hand, it diluted the power of the GER-FRA-UK axis, OTOH it brought in a host of problems, like the Cyprus/Turkey conflict and the Polish Twins and their happy gang of neo-McCarthyists).

On an even darker note: if the populations had been more serious about this, they would have forced their governments to be more serous about pushing it.

Precisely what tools do you suggest that we use to pitch the notion of accountability to our political caste? Every time we turn down an expansion, as we did with the €, it is interpreted as a combination of ignorance and nationalism by virtually all the major political parties, so that's evidently not a viable way of affecting change (well, it'll affect change, but in some pretty random directions). If you're suggesting prioritizing the Union over domestic issues for parliamentary votes, you're in for a rude surprise.

In every survey in which the Danish population is asked about the reasons for its euroskepticism, roughly half the nay-sayers cite lack of transparency and accountability, or some proxy therefore such as bureaucracy or corruption. Which suggests to me that if our Dear Leaders would stop sitting on their collective hands and actually go hell-for-leather in support of substantial reforms to increase transparency, we'd poll a solid majority in favour of the Union. Which is what our political class claims to desire. Yet it seems hell-bent on remaining in the current state of willful ignorance, so precisely what tools do we have left? This is not a rhetorical question, by the way, I would genuinely like to know.

In my view, there is a quality of self-fulfilling prophecy about Scandinavian Euroscepticism.

Perhaps so, but OTOH it's a bit much to expect us to give up a functioning and reasonably transparent system in order to try to make the Union work - especially when, if history is anything to judge by, it's unlikely to work. Add in the fact that our politicians seem more interested in making the people fit the union (euphemistically termed 'selling the Union' is if it were some cheap fast-food that one could pitch in an advertisement), rather than in attempting to make the Union fit the people, and I can't say I blame those of my fellow citizens who wish a pox on the new Treaty.

<rant>

Furthermore, take a look at the way this new treaty was made: Some commission cooks up a travesty of a constitution (behind closed doors, I might add) that is actually a mish-mash of constitutional bits, concrete policy initiatives and vague statements of intent, watered down with copious application of diplomat-speak, so as to make it essentially (and unnecessarily) unreadable.*

Our good-for-nothing politicians then have sheer gall to be surprised when the voters reject that abomination as an insult to their intelligence. Furthermore, they then go on to figure out ways to repackage and resell essentially the same treaty in a new wrapping - except this time the take a quite inordinate amount of care to surgically excise the bits and pieces that would make referendums constitutionally mandated. And they even have the chutzpah to tell us in so many words that that's what they're doing. Put in those terms, is it still hard to understand that some people might get the impression that all those smiling men in suits give less than a fart in a flashbulb what the citizens think?

*Take the preamble, as an example. Instead of simply saying something nice and plain and readable like 'We the duly elected representatives of the People of the undersigned states, in order to form a more perfect Union enact this treaty to take immediate effect in all territories and jurisdictions of the undersigned states' followed by a list of signatures and countries, it contained the next best thing to three pages of utter crap about the deep and significant cultural ancestry of Europe - hell, it was all that some of the saner governments could do to prevent the inclusion of Europe's 'Christian Values' from making the cut!

</rant>

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 20th, 2007 at 02:10:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU has to solve complex coordination problems. To a large extent technocratic answers ARE what's needed. And we know that the public simply does not care to enter into complex issues - they always vote for the demagogue over the technocrat/the wonk (the guy you'd have beer with).

Even on big issus like global climate change or energy security of supply, awareness has been gained by oversimplifying and personalising. Same thing on institutional reform. It's the  British "red lines" - the "Sarkozy dynamism" - the Polish brinkmanship, etc...

People complain about the lack of transparency and the demagoguery but vote for it anyway, when they actually have a choice about it (and if they didn't understand the choice, it's because od the demagoguery).

Even trying to explain something as basic, from a technical pov, as the difference between average pricing and marginal pricing, is beyond what most people will ever bother to learn about.

The problem is not the lack of transparency. It's the lack of care by most people, and their corresponding willingness to be fed lies and disinformation that they vaguely feel is lies and disinformation, but cannot be bothered to actually unravel.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 05:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU has to solve complex coordination problems. To a large extent technocratic answers ARE what's needed. And we know that the public simply does not care to enter into complex issues - they always vote for the demagogue over the technocrat/the wonk (the guy you'd have beer with).

I do not have a problem with technocratic solutions. What I have a problem with is that those technocratic solutions are incorporated into the same document that regulates the functioning of the technocrats that make them. For instance, what in the name of the Union are articles on preventing fraud and organizing an inner market doing in the same text as clauses on citizenship and separation of powers? What prevents us from making a nice, clean constitution that covers the establishment of a set of institutions and the powers vested in them without having a hundred and fifty-odd pages of riders concerning specific policies?

Then we could discuss the specifics of those institutions and the specifics of the attached bill of rights without getting bogged down in meaningless details that are important only because they are given the force of constitutional law. I noticed that the original treaty imposed a blanket ban on reproductive cloning, for one thing - how does that belong in a bill of rights? That's a discussion I'd have loved to have had without having to give an up-or-down vote on simultaneously encasing twenty or thirty specific policies.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 05:15:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because the devil is in the details: countries won't approve the big issues without the accompanying details.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 05:41:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The transparency and accountability problem was there long before the expansion.

Of course it was. The way I read you, this problem couldn't be addressed because progress there was advocated by small member countries, which didn't have enough weight against the big ones. What I said is that now the weight of small countries is larger, but that didn't improve things because the new small ones don't advocate improved transparency.

Precisely what tools do you suggest that we use to pitch the notion of accountability to our political caste?

Civic initiatives, public-initiative referendums, activism within parties and party leadership elections, practising more varied choice on your party spectrums? If the political caste is so deaf, maybe bottom-up democracy already doesn't work as well as Solveig imagines? (Or is there a Norway vs. Denmark/Sweden/Finland difference?) (And before the above is misread as a cynical dismissal, I note I'd wish we'd have referendums like in Switzerland all across the EU, but with participations above 60%.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 06:17:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.

As a partly related issue, I'd add that bringing up "transparency" is the grievance of those that care about what's going on, but are out of the decision process (or on the losing side of the decision process), that they are out of the process (or on the losing side).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 11:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Civic initiatives,

Been there, done that. Still doing it, for that matter.

public-initiative referendums,

Not applicable under the Danish constitution.

activism within parties and party leadership elections,

Happening.

practising more varied choice on your party spectrums?

And give less priority to which policy area? Education? Health care? Unemployment benefits? Environmental policy? If you have a strong position on all of those, then party alignment is pretty much determined. In other words, Union policy would have to replace one or more of those subjects. Can't rightly see that happening.

If the political caste is so deaf, maybe bottom-up democracy already doesn't work as well as Solveig imagines? (Or is there a Norway vs. Denmark/Sweden/Finland difference?)

Correct on both counts. The major difference between the Union and Denmark is not in the degree to which our politicians care - it is the degree to which they are able to hide the fact that they don't. Which in and of itself is quite significant.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 21st, 2007 at 05:27:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Top Diaries

Bigotry loses in Romania

by IdiotSavant - Oct 10
6 comments

Wilding

by Cat - Oct 10
7 comments

What A Joke He Is!

by Oui - Oct 12
4 comments

Nobel Prize Medicine - It's Personal

by Oui - Oct 2
25 comments

Occasional Series