Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The UK and the EU democratic deficit

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 12:43:24 PM EST

The Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum have employed two main arguments in their campaign: The fear of uncontrolled immigration into the UK and the need to take back control from "faceless bureaucrats in Brussels". Little matter that 60% of foreign born residents of the UK are not from the EU and that the total foreign born population comes in at 13% of the total -- the same as US and Germany -- and lower than both Norway and Switzerland, which are not in the EU.

But it is to the second meme that I want to turn my attention, one conceded by many on both left and right of the Remain side: the alleged domination by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels.  Let us leave aside, for the moment, the oddity that the charges of a lack of democratic accountability are coming from the only major EU member with an entirely unelected upper chamber of parliament.

Is it true that nations joining the EU have to shed a lot of democracy in the process? A lot is made, for instance, of the three occasions on which a referendum on essentially the same Treaty was run twice "until the electorate gave the right answer"... as if this somehow undermined the democratic legitimacy of the EU. However the UK also voted, in a Referendum in 1975, on the question of EU membership.  So why is the current referendum any more legitimate?  

In fact the EU membership is the only question on which voters have been given a direct say by way of  a UK wide referendum:  all other questions having been decided by way of the "Sovereign" Westminster Parliament including the unelected House of Lords. It seems to me that membership of the EU has more democratic accountability than any other decisions made by the UK.

But let us examine this issue a little more widely.  In total, there have been 46 distinct referenda on matters related to the EU since 1972.  Many of these were held in countries such as the UK with little or no tradition of holding referenda - so you could argue that the level of democracy and consultation in EU member states has actually increased with or since accession.

In 34 of these referenda, the side supported by the pro-EU side won the day.  That is a pretty high proportion given that many referenda are effectively votes of confidence in the Government of the day, and that governments frequently get turfed out at the next election. There have been 9 defeats for the pro-government or pro-EU side which were then honoured or implemented:

  1. In 1972 Norway voted against membership and did not join.
  2. In 1979 Greenland voted against membership and subsequently left
  3. In 1994 Norway again voted against membership and did not join.
  4. in 2000 and 2003 Denmark and Sweden voted against joining the Euro
  5. In 2005 France and Netherlands voted against a proposed new Constitution, which was then never enacted.
  6. In 2015 Denmark voted against opting in to the Justice and Home affairs provisions of the Maastricht Treaty.
  7. In 2016 Dutch voters voted against an Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine in a low turn-out non-binding referendum. Whether this referendum result will be honoured remains to be seen.

There have also been 3 referenda defeats which resulted in the Government of the day negotiating changes to the Treaty in question and subsequently carrying a second vote by a much higher margin on a much higher turnout:

1. First Defeat and re-run

Maastricht Treaty

In Denmark, two referendums were held before the treaty of Maastricht passed. The first was held on 2 June 1992, had a turnout of 82.9% with approval of the treaty of Maastricht denied by a slim margin of 50,7%, with 49.3% in favour of the treaty.

After that defeat of the treaty, Denmark negotiated and received the following four opt-outs from portions of the treaty: Economic and Monetary Union, Union Citizenship, Justice and Home Affairs and Common Defense. A new referendum was held on 18 May 1993. There was a turnout of 85.5% of which the 56.8% voted in favour of the treaty with the opt-outs.

Second Defeat and re-run

Nice Treaty

In 2001 Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice by 53.9%, with 34.8% of the electorate voting. At a second referendum in 2002, statements on Ireland not having to join a common defence policy and affirming the right to decide on enhanced cooperation in the national parliament were stressed in a special document and they accepted the Treaty by 62.9% with 49.5% of the electorate voting.

Third defeat and re-run:

Lisbon Treaty

After the first vote by the Republic of Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council made a statement that the other member countries would not use the possibility in the Treaty to diminish the number of permanent commissioners in favor of a rotating system with fewer commissioners, and not threaten Ireland's military neutrality and rules on abortion. With these statements, The Irish voted again on the unchanged Lisbon Treaty on 2 October 2009. The vote was then 67.1% in favour of the treaty.

Note that in each case there was a much higher turnout for the second vote and the vote was carried by a much higher margin than the original defeat.

I think we can draw a number of conclusions form this: There has been more democratic consultation within EU member states since they became part of the EU. 75% of proposed changes have been voted in. In most cases where a proposal was defeated, that result was respected and implemented. In three cases a proposal was defeated and then subsequently passed by a much wider margin on a higher turn-out vote following the negotiation of opt-outs or clarifications. There has also been one slightly weird anomaly: In July 2015 the Greek Government actually won a referendum called to reject the bailout conditions attached to a Troika bail-out in the Greek government-debt crisis by 61%. Shortly afterwards the government accepted a bailout with even harsher conditions than the one rejected.

However in general, I would regard the EU experience of referenda as evidence of democracy in action whereas some "progressives" seem to think the reverse: that the EU is less democratic than it ever was. In one sense that may be true: Now that the EU has expanded to 28 members its institutions must reflect the views of 28 members which necessarily makes it more remote from the views of any one member. But it would be less democratic, not more, if one member where to be increasingly able to determine the path of the EU as a whole. The UK campaigned vociferously for the expansion of the EU membership to include 10 eastern European states, and now it complains that the EU is less responsive to its particular concerns - but that is the logical consequence of the expansion! The EU is not some sort of re-enactment of the British Empire.

There has also been vociferous opposition to all things EU in the media: Martin Fletcher former Times foreign correspondent has this to say:

Appalled as I am at the prospect of my country voting to leave the European Union next week, I am hardly surprised.

For 25 years our press has fed the British public a diet of distorted, mendacious and relentlessly hostile stories about the EU - and the journalist who set the tone was Boris Johnson.

I know this because I was appointed Brussels correspondent of The Times in 1999, a few years after Johnson's stint there for The Telegraph, and I had to live with the consequences.

Johnson, sacked by The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quote, made his mark in Brussels not through fair and balanced reporting, but through extreme euro-scepticism. He seized every chance to mock or denigrate the EU, filing stories that were undoubtedly colourful but also grotesquely exaggerated or completely untrue.

The Telegraph loved it. So did the Tory Right. Johnson later confessed: "Everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power."

Johnson's reports also had an amazing, explosive effect on the rest of Fleet Street. They were much more fun than the usual dry and rather complex Brussels fare. News editors on other papers, particularly but not exclusively the tabloids, started pressing their own correspondents to match them. By the time I arrived in Brussels editors only wanted stories about faceless Brussels eurocrats imposing absurd rules on Britain, or scheming Europeans ganging up on us, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rearguard actions against a hostile continent. Much of Fleet Street seemed unable to view the EU through any other prism. It was the only narrative it was interested in.

Stories that did not bash Brussels, stories that acknowledged the EU's many achievements, stories that recognised that Britain had many natural allies in Europe and often won important arguments, almost invariably ended up on the spike.

Boris Johnson is now campaigning against the cartoon caricature of the EU that he himself created. He is campaigning against a largely fictional EU that bears no relation to reality. That is why he and his fellow Brexiteers could win next week. Johnson may be witty and amusing, just as Donald Rumsfeld was in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, but he is extremely dangerous. What began as a bit of a jape could inflict terrible damage on this country.

Fight back!!!!!!

So to conclude: Yes there has been widespread disagreement and debate on how the EU should develop, and this debate looks like it will intensify regardless of the outcome of the Brexit referendum. However this is what democracy in action is all about, and given that many EU members have a history of dictatorship, surely that, in itself, is an advance?

The new constitution was never enacted, but a significant part was carried to the Lisbon treaty, where the bare minimum of referendums (that is Ireland) were used. So the 2005 NO votes were formally respected, but in reality circumvened.

Anyway, if we are counting referendums to see how democratic the EU is, should we not count the number of times the EU has consulted its entire population? Otherwise a member state should be counted as becoming more democratic if there are lots of local referendums, even if there are no national referendums.

I think a better approach to see how democratic the EU is, is to imagine what would happen if a state resembling the EU sought membership in the EU.

So, we have a state with an elected lower house. There is no national media or debate of note. The lower house has a limited say in appointing the executive, with real power resting in the upper house consisting of representatives from the local executives. The upper house is secretive and is often used to pass legislation the local executives could not get passed in their own local councils.

Recently, the central bank - that is constitutionally outside of national legislative control - has grabbed power over some local councils.

Would that state be allowed to enter the union?

I would say no, the EU does not live up to the criterias of democracy it in reality demands from new member countries. That is the democratic deficit. And it is moving in the wrong direction.

by fjallstrom on Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 01:52:43 PM EST
Except the EU isn't a state, so your comparison and basis for argument is, uh, flawed.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 02:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We could have a long discussion on the definition of a state, but I fail to see the relevance.

Is your argument that moving power from a state to a supranational entity does not create a democratic deficit as long as said entity does not cross some threshold criteria where it becomes a state?

If so, why is not the democratic deficit there before it crosses the threshold to statehood?

by fjallstrom on Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 06:08:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I entirely understand your problem.  There is no constitutional provision for an EU wide referendum, and for very good reason:  The will of a small country like Ireland could be swamped by the votes of several hundred million voters elsewhere.  Instead there is a far more exacting requirement: All 28 member states, individually and severally, have to agree any constitutional change in accordance with their own constitutions.  

In some countries, like Ireland, this may require a referendum every time.  In others, like the UK, Parliament is sovereign.  It is not for the EU to dictate the mechanisms by which the UK will or will not agree to a Treaty change.  Thus if there is a democratic deficit, it is within the UK rather in the EU as such.  Each country also retains a veto on the Council on matters of vital national interest,  Thus neither a simple majority nor a weighted majority is sufficient to agree a change. Unanimity is required, and that is a very high hurdle when there are 28 members and all sorts of incentives to game the system - e.g. a member state won't agree a change (even one they agree with), unless they get all sorts of concessions on unrelated matters.

If anything, I would argue that the EU is TOO democratic, because the requirement for unanimity amongst 28 members may become so difficult to achieve that the EU becomes paralysed and unable to make any key decisions at all, or at least not in a timely fashion in response to a crisis. Arguably, that is why the EU has not been able to respond coherently and speedily to the refugee crisis.

And what is your problem with the EU Council?  Each member is a democratically elected President or Prime Minister. I would much prefer the European Parliament to have far greater powers, but the UK has been in the vanguard of preventing the granting of more powers to the EP. And as far as the ECB is concerned, name me a national central bank with a democratically elected Board of Directors...

As progressives we may not be happy with the direction the EU has been moving in - particularly with regard to Greece.  But the bottom line is that that policy direction has been determined by the outcome of national and EP elections which has given the EPP and centre right parties a majority in the Parliament and the Council. There are virtually no socialist parties left in power in national governments in the EU, so why are we surprised? The problem with the EU is not a lack of democracy (especially when compared to prior fascist or communist regimes); the problem is that we have been losing the democratic argument.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 08:05:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem here, as always, is that Europe doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up.  Is the EU a supranational government, or is it a free-trade area with a UN-type thing bolted onto it?

I'm not sure I entirely understand your problem.  There is no constitutional provision for an EU wide referendum, and for very good reason:  The will of a small country like Ireland could be swamped by the votes of several hundred million voters elsewhere.

Whether by referendum or representation, isn't that just a fact of life in a democracy?  By this logic, the US and Canada shouldn't have federal elections on grounds that Alberta and Vermont get swamped by Ontario and Texas.  And you can carry that logic on down to the point at which you're basically left with anarchy.

Instead there is a far more exacting requirement: All 28 member states, individually and severally, have to agree any constitutional change in accordance with their own constitutions.

Isn't this a bit inconsistent?  "We can't have a referendum across the union, because Germany would swamp Ireland, but we can inflate Irish citizens' power relative to Germans' by giving Ireland a veto over everything"?

There's always a balance to be struck between majority rule and protection of minority groups in a functioning democracy, of course.  But that's not very democratic.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 12:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 By this logic, the US and Canada shouldn't have federal elections on grounds that Alberta and Vermont get swamped by Ontario and Texas.

Can you say "Senate, point of"?

The whole democratic deficit thing is bullshit. Democracy is a set of balances, not some sort of pure essence. Is the EU out of balance? Maybe - though it's not obvious what fixes would reflect the will of the people better, make it more responsive and reflect anachronistic attachments to "national sovereignty". EU states seem to vote for incompetent right-wing nationalists, so I guess having them run the EU is fair enough.

UK democracy is certainly out of balance, so is US. Ireland's system could do with some sprucing up, though in my more cynical moods I tend to think the country gets the government it deserves.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:02:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll get no argument from me on the inherent stupidity of the Senate, although it's not as though one senator can completely veto all legislation, much as Cruz may try.  Ultimately Vermont has to live with Texas's wishes if Texas's views carry a majority.  And so, too, does Texas have to live with Vermont's views (more of the latter case in recent years).

(Yes, I know they can place holds on bills, but those are temporary.)

I don't think the term "democratic deficit" is terribly helpful.  The problem, I think, is clarity of roles and how democracy And accountability relate to that.  When I vote for president, I don't vote on education policy, because the president really doesn't mean much on that front.  It's a state and local issue.  I vote on economic and foreign policy for the presidency.  I vote on education in gubernatorial, state legislative and local council elections.

Whereas, with regard to EU and national executive branches, it's basically a one-shot deal across an enormous range of issues.  It's not undemocratic in that sense, just difficult to balance and confusing.  Separating the two would be helpful, I think.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 04:09:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Put it another way.  If people voted for a "President of Yurp" or a parliamentary majority with a "PM of Yurp," there's a certain perceived legitimacy among the common guy on the street that would follow, I suspect.  S/he may or may not like turning over a certain level of personal sovereignty to the whims of others, but s/he can plainly see that the vote was held and his/her voice was heard.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 04:14:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we are actually close to that one.

The party groups appoints spitzenkandidate, and the European parliament supported the winning candidate as the new Commission president.

All that is needed is for the national parties to actually accept this and take their Commission president candidates to the people. 2014 for example the leading MEP of Moderaterna (EPP) claimed he ran to prevent Juncker, while in fact a vote for Moderaterna was a vote for EPP was a vote for Juncker.

The question is how to make national parties to own up to running a candidate for Commission president.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jun 28th, 2016 at 12:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your argument is that the membership and the competencies of the EU have been constituted in a democratic manner, through negotiation between sovereign nations and the consent of the electorate of the nations. I don't disagree.

But to conclude from this that "the EU is democratic" is more than a stretch. The functioning of the Commission and of the Council are neither transparent nor accountable. The heads of government and ministers who defend what are presumed to be their national interests, but have no legitimacy -- they are rarely elected on a platform in which Europe is a major factor, and they can't be called to account for their positions because neither the agenda nor the conclusions of the Concil are ever published.

And your underlying assumption that national governments are the people who should be the sole negotiators at EU level is highly questionable. Major EU decisions should also involve consultations of sectoral interests, through their representative organs : federations of trade unions and of employers, civil society organisations, etc. After all, a functioning democracy does this at national level. And final arbitration of decisions, within the domain of the competencies of the EU, should be determined by the Parliament and the Commission. The intrusion of the Council as a decision-making body is an intolerable intrusion against democracy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:50:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't like the structure of the current EU at all. Problem is that the EU isn't a nation state, isn't a federal state, is something else, and the members are the states, not the citizens of the states.

And a lot of citizens of states seem to be sure they like it that way.

"Democracy" is not, sadly, a synonym for "they don't do things the way I think they should".

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, put another way, it's not obvious to me that the citizens of the member states would consent to changing the EU to make it more directly democratic. So maybe I mean it's as democratic as most people want it to be.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:56:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Comparisons with the USA can be useful, but flawed, for the simple reason that in the EU it is the nation states that are Sovereign, with the EU level institutions merely the resultant of those powers that nation states have explicitly chosen to delegate (or pool) at the EU level.

Within the limitations of that comparison, you can think of the Council as an upper house of Parliament, or Senate, with it's members primarily elected and tasked with representing their national interest.  

The UK has been at the forefront of preventing more powers being delegated to the European Parliament, with the result that it is a relatively toothless body, and not as influential in setting policies and providing oversight as it should be.

European issues are increasingly important in the election of National governments, and hence Council membership, and so National leaders increasingly do have a mandate to pursue particular objectives.

Lots of lobbying takes place at national and EU levels, but it seems to me that your suggestion that sectoral interests, through their representative organs, should be more directly involved in governance processes would make things less Democratic, not more so.

The system is complex - how else could it be with a system that has evolved through multiple treaties trying to incorporate features acceptable to many different national traditions - and it is easy to see why ordinary voters find it confusing or opaque.

It is also easy to see why nationalist demagogues find it an easy target to ridicule in the name of some simpler or more direct system. But in my experience complaints about a lack of democracy are almost always a cover for the EU institutions failing to roll-over in the face of SOME national interests as represented by those demagogues.

For instance British tabloid railings at "faceless bureaucrats" are almost always a code for those bureaucrats not simply doing the bidding of a highly sectional interest in the British body politic. The Britain obviously knows best nationalist cant.

It is feature, and not a bug, that it is difficult for any one member state or sectional interest to get its policy preferences implemented as these frequently ride roughshod over other national, political or sectional interests.

The UK has been very successful in getting its language and neo-liberal ideological preferences adopted as EU orthodoxy. Many observers often blame Germany for this, but it's dominant ordo-liberal economic philosophies are much less averse to state intervention than the neo-liberals.

If anything the dominant ideological force shaping the EU in recent years has been Anglo-American focused on minimising state intervention of any kind. Personally I am glad that this influence may now be reduced.  It is one of the silver linings of Brexit from an EU (and marginally more progressive) perspective.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 10:21:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU could have a referendum if it wanted to ask the EUropean demos on wheter something is a good idea or not.

For example, the Lisbon treaty. Wikipedia has this timetable:

Treaty of Lisbon

    21-23 June 2007: European Council meeting in Brussels, mandate for Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)
    23 July 2007: IGC in Lisbon, text of Reform Treaty
    7-8 September 2007: Foreign Ministers' meeting
    18-19 October 2007: European Council in Lisbon, final agreement on Reform Treaty
    13 December 2007: Signing in Lisbon
    1 January 2009: Intended date of entry into force

The list might also include the February 2008 vote of the European parliament.

A consultative EU-wide referendum could have been held some time after the final agreement in October 2007 and before the ratifications. If the collected EU member state governments had agreed to such a procedure, I don't see what the practical problems would be. They all have some state voting agency that already performs the European Parliament elections. If there is problems they could have done a mini-treaty on how to pass treaties.

Yes, it would be cumbersome for Ireland that will need to have an additional referendum as part of the process of ratification.

Yes, it would be hard to get it passed by sufficient majority in sufficient countries so that the ratification process would not be undermined. So it should probably aim high when it comes to support. And in order to do that, the earlier process might need to be wider then just seeking consensus in the national political elites.

But in the end, if there is to be a democratic, European state (or quasi-state entity) it needs to engage the European demos, not just the elected representatives of each state. The democratic alternative is to skip the super-national and just go with a collection of treaties that can each be entered or left in accordance with the shifting wills of each nations voters.

When it comes to central banks, you are probably right that no member country has a democratic control over its central bank. Issuing instructions to central banks is prohibited in the Maastricht treaty, so at least all Maastricht countries share the problem. I also think - but can't find now - that the construction of parliament appoints central bank board that appoints central bank manager is in the treaties somewhere. If not a direct election of central bank manager would be an interesting way around the treaties attempt at making them not only indepedent but also irresponsible.

However, in politics it often comes down to legitimacy. And the national central banks in the countries that are in Masstricht but not in the eurozone would not get away with ursurping the responsibilities of parliament as it is clear that parliament comes above central bank in the order of things. Not so in the EU where the European parliament does not appoint the ECB board, and has no other levers to use against it. And by taking it upon itself to decide for example the VAT in Greece, ECB ursurps not only the Greek parliaments right to decide the VAT but also the European parliaments right to be part of the decisionmaking process of deciding who decides the VAT in Greece.

Sure, the rise of the right wing (or downwards trend of the centre-left) gives the ECB enough support in the informal eurogroup that it can use it as a fig leaf for its ursurption of powers. But I think the institutional arangement is also critical.

by fjallstrom on Tue Jun 28th, 2016 at 12:15:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that democracy in the EU is too indirect to create a popular felt sense of democracy.  E.g. citizens elected national parliamentarians who elect national governments who appoint Commissioners, central bankers, judges, and Council members.  

The UK was in the forefront of preventing further powers being devolved to the EP which helped to undermine its effectiveness and legitimacy. It's departure now creates an opportunity to revisit that issue.

I would also not have a problem with an EU-wide consultative referendum on key EU wide issues.  For instance an EU wide referendum on a European army, TTIP, refugee policy, or even the terms of UK exit.

To be useful, such referenda should be on specific proposals with specific consequences either way.  For instance, if the referendum rejects whatever terms the Council negotiates whatever terms the Council negotiates, the the UK would simply leave with no exit package whatsoever.

It would be a nice irony if that decision was made by an EU wide referendum - sending a clear message that the UK electorate are not the only people with rights or with a stake in the future of the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 1st, 2016 at 03:48:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The democracy deficit could simply be a deficit of accountability. Elections are about voting people in or out according to your assessment of politics and policy. How much do the elections for EU parliament matter in that regard? A single voice can't change much when it comes to hundreds of millions of people. Also, the council and the commission still have the greatest say (along with those tens of thousands of 'bureaucrat' boogeymen).

This makes the EU seem like a project by and for the elites. It doesn't help that former prime ministers, heads of states are toiling in the EU institutions. If you have been voted out you should be out of government office. Now I understand the objections of Cameron against Juncker becoming commission president. Well, at least they prevented Blair.

The only lever left to pull for a voter who feels powerless seems to be electing eurosceptic national governments who can push back. Or vote 'Leave'. If people feel powerless they lash out even if it is irrational. People who could work to make a change have already packed up and left at this point.

How to avoid Europe's disintegration - Ivan Krastev - Eurozine

the best chance that the EU has for success is when the people see it as an instrument to gain control over the elite and not as a haven for the elite. If it becomes the latter, we will see an even greater level of frustration between the elite and the people. This is the lesson that Europe's leaders need to understand today. If this lesson is not learnt, we will see the disintegration of the project in the future.

Video: Europe too big to fail?

This EU accountability deficit is one major reason it is already falling apart. Even if a slim majority in the UK votes 52-48 to remain. You don't need a majority for serious disintegration. A vocal and important minority loses trust and pulls the rest along like in a bank run.

Also disturbing: a collapse is unforeseeable (see the Soviet union).

The EU is already fraying at the edges but the final dagger will come from the center (if it comes). So if Berlin, Paris, London etc revoke funds and willpower then it is finished. Which will happen if the electorate in the center countries is fed up with the neverending crises.

According to political scientists, muddling through and ambiguity still seems the best solution. If you survive, you'll be strengthened. Chuck the ideals of yesterday and preserve the institutions so that you may live to see another day.

Link: A theory of European disintegration - Hans Vollaard

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 10:27:33 PM EST
Since the national governments of EU constituent states and the EU itself make rules for vastly different polities it makes no sense to me that the EC, effectively the executive branch of the EU consist of the heads of individual governments. Were the current arrangement replaced with a system of popularly elected national representatives to a governing body called the EC, and were they elected on schedules that have nothing necessarily to do with the schedules of national elections, but preferably with something like three year terms that could be repeated for several terms, then it would seem to me that such a body would both have much greater democratic credibility but also could act on EU wide issues with better accountability and competence. Their incentives during their terms would be radically different from those of the national leaders. The only thing hard about such a plan is getting it implemented.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2016 at 01:45:19 AM EST
You may be confusing the European Council with the European Commission.  The Council is made up of heads of Government and is perhaps best seen as analogous to the US Senate, but with only one representative per state. However it is effectively a part-time job as the main job of a head of Government is to lead their national Government.

The Commission is effectively the executive branch and civil service of the EU and is headed up by the President of the Commission (J-C Juncker) and one commissioner from each member state - effectively a kind of Cabinet.  These commissioners are nominated by their national governments and ratified by the European Parliament and are usually ex-Cabinet or Prime Ministers.  This makes sense because it means they have experience of leading a large policy making and executive government department.

There was a proposal to combine the roles of President of the Commission and President of the Council into one job.  This was rejected, most vociferously by the Brits, because they were worried it would increase the institutional power and legitimacy of the EU.  In general, the UK has done more to undermine the power and democratic legitimacy than any other member state precisely because they didn't want the EU to become more powerful. They are actually complaining about something they have worked very had to bring about...


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 24th, 2016 at 02:20:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomenclature. I think I had a better idea of the EU structure a couple of years ago. I realized this after our recent discussion of the UK government changes in 2015. Upon reflection I had vague memories of that election and the results and wondered why that was. The answer, I believe, is that it is because I was on 60mg of prednisone/day and 4500mg of Celcept, and immune system depressant which I tapered off from in May of '15 to be followed by two surgeries at Mayo where I was under anesthesia for hours each time.

Common advice post surgery is not to make any major decisions for several weeks for every hour you were under anesthesia and now I know why! It can wipe your brain. Please bear with me. FB also brought up some comments I made 3 years ago and I was struck by how much more lucent they were than much of what I have been posting recently. I can only hope that my mind is on a faster track to recovery than has been my body.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jun 24th, 2016 at 03:53:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't worry!  You probably know more about Europe than I know about the USA! We may have our (marginal) differences, but I have always valued your contributions.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 24th, 2016 at 04:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prime Ministers must stop listening so much to their voters and instead act as "full time Europeans", according to Jean-Claude Juncker.

Elected leaders are making life "difficult" because they spend too much time thinking about what they can get out of EU and kowtowing to public opinion, rather than working on "historic" projects such as the Euro, he said [...]

"Too many politicians are listening exclusively to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and a feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans."

by das monde on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 05:24:33 AM EST
by das monde on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 05:25:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tell me this is a joke! Please.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 07:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice framing from the Torygraph.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 08:08:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon checking, it's even worse than framing by disingenuous paraphrasing. I can't find anywhere in the Torygraph article an indication of where and when Juncker said what the he is quoted and paraphrased saying. But I found an FAZ interview which could be the source. And if so, even the quotes are mis-quotes with key omissions. For example in his argument on public opinion, the omitted key point is long-term vs. short-term:

Juncker über Brexit, Flüchtlingspolitik & Abkommen mit TürkeiJuncker on Brexit, refugee policy & agreement with Turkey
...In der Nachbetrachtung wirken geschichtliche Ereignisse tatsächlich oft milder, weil man nicht mehr akut damit zu tun hat. Leider reagieren wir in Europa, das bemängele ich auch manchmal an mir selbst, zu stark situativ. Das Denken in historischen Zeitabschnitten ist uns abhandengekommen, was auch damit zusammenhängt, dass viele aktive Politiker in Europa stärker an der sofortigen Reaktion der öffentlichen Meinung in ihrem Land interessiert sind als an der Frage, wie sich die Dinge langfristig fügen könnten, müssten oder sollten....In retrospect, historical events are often seen in a milder light because you no longer have to deal with it acutely. Regrettably, and that's something I fault myself for too, we react in Europe too much in a situational way. We lost our sense to think in historical periods, which is also related to the fact that many active politicians in Europe are more interested in the immediate reaction to public opinion in their country than the question of how things will, have to or should align on the longer term long.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 09:23:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Boris Johnson was sacked by the Times for making up quotes and then started the long tradition of post-evidenciary EU bashing in the Torygraph

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 09:33:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
misquote? just another day for the telegraph. i wonder whether johnson will be skilled enough to tame the fires that he stoked. i'd say exit proceedings will consume a lot of time and political energy. Meanwhile, things will go worse in the 'heartland' and then what? Actually a prime opportunity for Labour to challenge the narrative and muscle back in. But Jeremy Corbyn is not up for it.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 09:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You sure about Corbyn? Seems to me his is the only faction with any credibility left.
by generic on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 11:36:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The brewwing coup against Corbyn is now on the front page at The Guardian. And it's hilarious that every single anti-Corbyn article lacks a comment section.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 10:40:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

And the guardian is all on board of course.

by generic on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 11:04:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In more detail:

How the News Agenda is Set - Craig Murray

The impression is deliberately given that he reflects general disgust from young people, and particularly gay young people, at Corbyn over the EU referendum. The very enthusiastic reception for Corbyn at Gay Pride is not reported.

Nor is the fact that the incident was not a chance one. The "heckler" is Tom Mauchline, a PR professional for PR firm Portland Communications, a dedicated Blairite (he describes himself as Gouldian) formerly working on the Liz Kendall leadership campaign. Portland Communications' "strategic counsel" is Alastair Campbell.

So far from representing a popular mood, Mauchlyne was this morning on twitter urging people to sign a 38 Degrees petition supporting the no confidence motion against Corbyn. Ten hours later that petition has gained 65 signatures, compared to 120,000 for a petition supporting Corbyn. Mauchline formerly worked for 38 Degrees, unsurprising given their disgraceful behaviour over the Kuenssberg petition. I am waiting for the circle to be squared and Kuenssberg to report on the significance of Mauchline's lone heckle.

The pro-Corbyn petition stands at 184,618 (slowed down noticeably since yesterday, but likely to reach its target of 200,000).

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

by DoDo on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 04:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would we be surprised?
by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 12:13:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour Party needs new leadership in Parliament - not a new leader! But Corbyn needs to respond forcefully to the plight of so many Labour members who have suffered from globalization and offer a message of hope. One is available: just add MMT to Keynes.
Brexit triggers Corbyn coup: seven shadow cabinet members quit Guardian (of Blairism?)
Jeremy Corbyn faces a coup this week by members of his shadow cabinet, led by Hilary Benn, the Observer can reveal. It is understood that the shadow foreign secretary called fellow MPs over the weekend to suggest that he will ask Corbyn to stand down if there is significant support for a move against the leader. He has also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if the Labour leader ignores that request. A spokesman for Benn declined to comment.

An overwhelming majority of the shadow cabinet now believes Corbyn should quit in the wake of millions of Labour voters ignoring their leader's advice to vote in favour of Britain's continued membership of the EU and amid the possibility of an early general election.

The development comes as leaked internal Labour party polling of people who voted for Labour in 2015 reveals that nearly a third (29%) would support a different party if a general election was held today. A Labour source said: "MPs and members were worried about their prospects at the next election under Corbyn, but thought they had four years to turn things around. Now many fear they may have just four months if a snap election is called."

The resignations have occurred. Is there even a cabinet worth of competent reformists in the Labour Parliamentary Party? If Corbyn is incapable of quickly responding he may well be ousted. I have trouble seeing that as a good thing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me be as charitable to the Labour rebels as possible: let's assume that claims that not all of the resigned shadow cabinet members are Bliarites are true and that Corbyn's conduct wasn't stellar in leading his shadow cabinet. Still,
  1. I read Corbyn's election district voted Remain while Hilary Benn's voted Leave. So who failed to do his job convincing his constituents more?
  2. Do they really think any of Corbyn's opponents ten months ago would have done a better job keeping the labour vote on the Remain side?
  3. Most importantly: when eyeing the potential snap elections, who exactly do they want to succeed Corbyn? I haven't heard any proposal, (much less a credible proposal). It's as if the anti-Corbyn coup organisers are in the grips of the same mind trick Bush's and Bliar's propagandists used before the Iraq War, when they talked about "removing" Saddam, instead of who or what would replace him as a result of their intervention.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For 3, I rather suspect many of them are thinking "me".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 03:58:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is one interpretation of the timing of the revolt:

It's Still the Iraq War, Stupid. - Craig Murray

No rational person could blame Jeremy Corbyn for Brexit. So why are the Blairites moving against Corbyn now, with such precipitate haste?

The answer is the Chilcot Report. It is only a fortnight away, and though its form will be concealed by thick layers of establishment whitewash, the basic contours of Blair's lies will still be visible beneath. Corbyn had deferred to Blairite pressure not to apologise on behalf of the Labour Party for the Iraq War until Chilcot is published.

For the Labour Right, the moment when Corbyn as Labour leader stands up in parliament and condemns Blair over Iraq, is going to be as traumatic as it was for the hardliners of the Soviet Communist Party when Khruschev denounced the crimes of Stalin. It would also destroy Blair's carefully planned post-Chilcot PR strategy. It is essential to the Blairites that when Chilcot is debated in parliament in two weeks time, Jeremy Corbyn is not in place as Labour leader to speak in the debate. The Blairite plan is therefore for the parliamentary party to depose him as parliamentary leader and get speaker John Bercow to acknowledge someone else in that fictional position in time for the Chilcot debate, with Corbyn remaining leader in the country but with no parliamentary status.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 04:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 04:06:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian seems to think the successor will be Tom Watson... not a Bliarite, but not inspiring either.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 06:32:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess he thinks that the House of Lords acts as "full-time" Europeans.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 07:52:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Democratic deficit argument was unmoving. The fact is that even in the most perfect modern directly representative democracy, and I think Ireland's institutions are arguably a good example, that representation is essentially an "outsourcing" of expertise in much the same way going to the doctor is a similar recognition that we don't all have time to go to medical school and be able to make fully informed decisions or proper procedures.

So, even in a proper democracy, which admittedly the EU is not, societal projects are necessarily going to be elite-led projects.

The real issue here isn't a so much a democratic deficit, as it is a two-fold problem of 1)increasing disconnect of elites from the people they govern and 2) increasing incomptence of those very same elites.

The EU is on many measures, important ones, economic policy, migration policy, foreign policy, security policy, indisputably a failure. The results are in; output in the Eurozone is ON AVERAGE 5 points under what it should be, and in many key economies (thinking Spain and Italy) far worse. And the economic leadership has been horrendous, making what was a Balance of internal EZ payments issue out to be a morality play where lazy southerners were sucking the virtuous German taxpayer dry.

Wolfgang Schauble is, in a word, incompetent. And yet, who is in the driver's seat as "we" push forward towards more "reform" in the aftermath of Brexit? Wolfgang Schauble.

I'll take an unelected elite any day over the tyranny of the majority. But that unelected elite better know the hell what they are doing.

And ours don't.

by John Redmond (Ladybeaterz@NolesAD.com) on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 01:44:12 PM EST
Politicians are there not to be influenced by prols, but to be influential.
by das monde on Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 03:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's Time for the Elites to Rise Up Against the Ignorant Masses -- Foreign Policy
The issue, at bottom, is globalization. Brexit, Trump, the National Front, and so on show that political elites have misjudged the depth of the anger at global forces and thus the demand that someone, somehow, restore the status quo ante. It may seem strange that the reaction has come today rather than immediately after the economic crisis of 2008, but the ebbing of the crisis has led to a new sense of stagnation. With prospects of flat growth in Europe and minimal income growth in the United States, voters are rebelling against their dismal long-term prospects. And globalization means culture as well as economics: Older people whose familiar world is vanishing beneath a welter of foreign tongues and multicultural celebrations are waving their fists at cosmopolitan elites.

Why elections are bad for democracy -- Guardian

Brexit is a turning point in the history of western democracy. Never before has such a drastic decision been taken through so primitive a procedure - a one-round referendum based on a simple majority. Never before has the fate of a country - of an entire continent, in fact - been changed by the single swing of such a blunt axe, wielded by disenchanted and poorly informed citizens [...]

People care deeply about their communities and want to be heard. But a much better way to let the people speak than through a referendum is to return to the central principle of Athenian democracy: drafting by lot, or sortition as it is presently called. In ancient Athens, the large majority of public functions were assigned by lot. Renaissance states such as Venice and Florence worked on the same basis and experienced centuries of political stability. With sortition, you do not ask everyone to vote on an issue few people really understand, but you draft a random sample of the population and make sure they come to the grips with the subject matter in order to take a sensible decision. A cross-section of society that is informed can act more coherently than an entire society that is uninformed.

by das monde on Thu Jun 30th, 2016 at 04:25:04 AM EST
Venice did not work on the basis of sortition.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 30th, 2016 at 07:29:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though I do sort of like the idea.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 30th, 2016 at 07:29:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I don't think it lasted much more than a century in Florence, until the Medici put a stop to it.

The US, of course, used it for the draft in Vietnam....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Jun 30th, 2016 at 07:37:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]