Tackling the European democratic deficit Watch

scrotgrot
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Here is a challenge for the Ukip types and for the pro-Europe types.

Let's assume to begin with that the EU is A Good Thing that took a long time to set up and we don't want to throw it down the toilet without at least first examining the ways it might be reformed to better reflect the will of the various peoples of Europe.

European governance as she is done
The President of the European Commission is the most powerful person within the EU machine. Commissioners, who hold portfolios like national ministers, are appointed unilaterally by the leaders of the 28 member states and those appointed Commissioners appoint the President. The European Parliament, a democratic institution to which we have just returned members, has no constitutional power over this process and this is at the centre of the more sophisticated criticisms of European "democracy".

Spitzenkandidaten: growing influence of the Parliament on the choice of President of the Commission
Here are two articles about the growing influence of Spitzenkandidaten, candidates in the race for the presidency of the European Commission who are strongly supported by the European Parliament. This is a trend that has been growing in response to the accusations of the EU machinery being anti-democratic. Note that this is all just soft power/persuasion, the candidates have no constitutional status.

In the Economist, Charlemagne criticises the concept of Spitzenkandidaten by saying that European politics remains more national than supranational. We elect Labour, Conservative, UKIP, Green and Lib Dem party members, and we have little concept of the larger supranational blocs in the European Parliament that these parties align themselves to. So we have very little connection to the Spitzenkandidaten who blocs such as the EPP or the S&D put forward.

In the FT, Rachman comes to a similar conclusion, but suggests that the solution be to bypass the Parliament completely and go with the status quo of national leaders undemocratically appointing their preferred candidate within the Commission, because nobody engages with people like Juncker and Schulz, but they do with their national politicians.

The difference is that Charlemagne would clearly like to see EU voters become more internationalist and thus get behind international blocs and their Spitzenkandidaten. He suggests that the main barrier to internationalism and engagement in EU politics is not having a shared vernacular language, and culture matters little.

What can we come up with?
So for those with interest in these admittedly very dry matters, how would you reform the democratic system?

Would you rather conduct European politics undemocratically via well known national leaders (status quo), or democratically via unknown international ones (Spitzenkandidaten)?

Is there a middle way?

Personally, I lean more towards Charlemagne, I think that there should be open primaries and direct elections for the President of the Commission, like America, with candidates put forward by the party blocs. I believe the presidentiality of the contest would in itself internationalise people's European politics. It would make people more aware of exactly what bloc they're voting for within the European Parliament, at the same time as increasing the power of our directly elected representatives in the EU. There should very possibly be similar for each nation's Commissioner.
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zippity.doodah
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I know how we can best make the EU more democratic - by abolishing it.
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scrotgrot
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
I know how we can best make the EU more democratic - by abolishing it.
Yes, yes, very clever. The clear progression before abolishing anything is to attempt reform, or at least explore ideas for reform.

I know that's a bit complicated and boring and grown-up for you Kippers, you would probably be more engaged if we elected the President of the Commission via a drinking competition.
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zippity.doodah
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(Original post by scrotgrot)
Yes, yes, very clever. The clear progression before abolishing anything is to attempt reform, or at least explore ideas for reform.

I know that's a bit complicated and boring and grown-up for you Kippers, you would probably be more engaged if we elected the President of the Commission via a drinking competition.
the EU = a federation (nobody likes to admit it but it is)
a federation = the loss of localism for nation states and therefore less proportion of citizen/local electorate to political representation in legislation as representation is then shared with other countries as opposed to kept local and as representative as possible
therefore, the most "democratic" route for europe as a whole is "no EU"
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scrotgrot
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
the EU = a federation (nobody likes to admit it but it is)
a federation = the loss of localism for nation states and therefore less proportion of citizen/local electorate to political representation in legislation as representation is then shared with other countries as opposed to kept local and as representative as possible
therefore, the most "democratic" route for europe as a whole is "no EU"
That's pseudo-academic drivel. Maybe supranational organisations do reduce the power of nation-states, but I'm sure people were saying the same thing in the 1600s when their local feudal communities were coming under the control of a centralised royal administration, creating the nation-state you love so much. Clearly, sometimes there are common interests to be gained from political union of whatever closeness.

In any case, the EU is not simply going to blink out of existence as it does in your fevered dreams. This is a thread grounded in practicalities rather than high-flown generalisations masquerading as political theory. The question is how might the EU respond in the near term to the message from the electorate that it is not seen as democratically representing their interests? We have plenty of threads already where both Kippers and Europhiles can spout pseudy platitudes at each other, I'm proposing a closer focus.

If you're so concerned with democracy, and so keen to take it to its theoretical extremes as to say "the most democratic route is to abolish Europe", why are you not pushing to reduce the democratic deficit in our nation's own political system? Why aren't you militating on this forum for Swiss-style direct democracy or a proportional voting system in Westminster?

Now, it would be nice if you could contribute to the thread by entertaining for a second the idea that the EU should remain. If this is a given - just for the purposes of this thread, you understand - how should its governance be reformed?
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zippity.doodah
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(Original post by scrotgrot)
That's pseudo-academic drivel. Maybe supranational organisations do reduce the power of nation-states, but I'm sure people were saying the same thing in the 1600s when their local feudal communities were coming under the control of a centralised royal administration, creating the nation-state you love so much. Clearly, sometimes there are common interests to be gained from political union of whatever closeness.
you haven't disagreed with me, you've just complained about what I said. there is no common interest here - the EU doesn't serve nor care about citizens or else they'd allow our own local politicians to legislate in terms of matters that are perfectly doable at home; if you were talking about something like european foreign policy during a european-wide invasion you might have a better point to make. but even then, we can do things like this through treaties.

In any case, the EU is not simply going to blink out of existence as it does in your fevered dreams. This is a thread grounded in practicalities rather than high-flown generalisations masquerading as political theory. The question is how might the EU respond in the near term to the message from the electorate that it is not seen as democratically representing their interests? We have plenty of threads already where both Kippers and Europhiles can spout pseudy platitudes at each other, I'm proposing a closer focus.
I'm not saying it will, I am arguing that it *should* - do you think I'm trying anything other than expressing an opinion? so if I was to say "we shouldn't go to war in the middle east" you'd be saying "we're not going to do what you advocate for"? because either way it would be missing the point of what's being said. and what practicalities in particular are you talking about here? do you honestly think the EU gives a damn? they've resisted the UK's efforts to renegotiate since it was even mentioned that this was the deal.


If you're so concerned with democracy, and so keen to take it to its theoretical extremes as to say "the most democratic route is to abolish Europe", why are you not pushing to reduce the democratic deficit in our nation's own political system? Why aren't you militating on this forum for Swiss-style direct democracy or a proportional voting system in Westminster?[/quote]

yes! we should definitely be a federal state - that would obviously be much more democratic for each region of the UK. yes - of course we should have some elements of direct democracy like switzerland does! and absolutely we should have PR! these are all democratic alternatives to what we currently have so I have no ide awhy you'd assume I'm against these

Now, it would be nice if you could contribute to the thread by entertaining for a second the idea that the EU should remain. If this is a given - just for the purposes of this thread, you understand - how should its governance be reformed?
give me some reasons then which are based on the democratic sacrifices made for the EU. I care more about democracy than I do "interests". "interests" are for the people to decide as much as possible, and the less politicians choose what is in our "interests", the better
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anarchism101
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
the EU = a federation (nobody likes to admit it but it is)
a federation = the loss of localism for nation states and therefore less proportion of citizen/local electorate to political representation in legislation as representation is then shared with other countries as opposed to kept local and as representative as possible
therefore, the most "democratic" route for europe as a whole is "no EU"
By this argument we should also break up the currently existing states into smaller units. And then break those up into smaller units, and so on.
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zippity.doodah
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(Original post by anarchism101)
By this argument we should also break up the currently existing states into smaller units. And then break those up into smaller units, and so on.
okay sure, whatever you say - because either we have massive central states like the EU or we have neighbourhood democracies. makes sense.
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anarchism101
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
okay sure, whatever you say - because either we have massive central states like the EU or we have neighbourhood democracies. makes sense.
It's not my opinion, it's the logical extension of your argument, unless you can provide a reason why a particular size of state would be too small.
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JohnPaul_
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Reform my ass, you cannot reform it dilly dally, the Irish voted no against change and they branded it as the Lisbon Treaty. Commissioner Barroso said and I quite 'I liken the European Union to a sort of empire."

He also said talked about how the project and missions of the parliament will go on 'unimpeded'.

To try and defend that all of this isn't the 'real' heart of the EU is just nonsense, you only have to listen to them all in European Parliament to hear how determined they are and how much they really don't care about the people of Europe, but only their own status and salary.


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scrotgrot
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
I'm not saying it will, I am arguing that it *should* - do you think I'm trying anything other than expressing an opinion? so if I was to say "we shouldn't go to war in the middle east" you'd be saying "we're not going to do what you advocate for"? because either way it would be missing the point of what's being said. and what practicalities in particular are you talking about here? do you honestly think the EU gives a damn? they've resisted the UK's efforts to renegotiate since it was even mentioned that this was the deal.
The anti-Europe vote was not just in the UK, it has happened in many European countries. The EU is responding to this, which is why I talked about the phenomenon of the Spitzenkandidaten. Of course, it's all done for opportunism and self-interest - what part of politics isn't? - but I was hoping for a debate on whether the Parliament should have a more powerful constitutional role at the expense of the Commission.

That's more democracy, but a greater disconnect between voter and executive (because people don't identify with transnational nominees). The status quo is less democracy, but a closer connection between voter and executive (because people identify with national leaders).

yes! we should definitely be a federal state - that would obviously be much more democratic for each region of the UK. yes - of course we should have some elements of direct democracy like switzerland does! and absolutely we should have PR! these are all democratic alternatives to what we currently have so I have no ide awhy you'd assume I'm against these
I completely agree myself. However, it's not appropriate to simply go about shouting about direct democracy and PR. There's a place for that sort of stuff, but there's also a place for discussing what can actually be done in view of that goal given what we have at the moment.

As I say, we have lots of Europe threads already where we can discuss the philosophical implications of more or less layers of governance and all the rest of it. I am considering something more practical in this thread.

give me some reasons then which are based on the democratic sacrifices made for the EU. I care more about democracy than I do "interests". "interests" are for the people to decide as much as possible, and the less politicians choose what is in our "interests", the better
So do I, that's immaterial within this thread though. If you won't play along with the premise of the thread in order to answer how the EU might resolve the issue through internal reforms, then I'm afraid you have nothing to contribute to the debate in this thread. And yes I am controlling the terms of debate
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Drewski
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(Original post by scrotgrot)
Let's assume to begin with that the EU is A Good Thing
Why?

The entire premise to the thread isn't a given. Explain to us why it's a good thing.
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zippity.doodah
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(Original post by anarchism101)
It's not my opinion, it's the logical extension of your argument, unless you can provide a reason why a particular size of state would be too small.
...surely the logical extent of my argument is anarcho individualism, though? democracy is a state-based political system. anarchism, if we follow through with totality in terms of devolving decision making processes, would mean that the most devolved system of personal decisions is for individuals and not communities?
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scrotgrot
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(Original post by Drewski)
Why?

The entire premise to the thread isn't a given. Explain to us why it's a good thing.
Because prior to dismantling something that took a lot of time and effort to build you should always examine whether it can be fixed. I will not have any truck with arguments for withdrawal until this option has been explored.
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DaveSmith99
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The Commissioners are confirmed by the European Parliament, as is the President. The President is elected by the Council as well, not the Commission, and they have to take into account the European Election results when doing so. Also, the Council works by QMV now, not unanimity.
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Drewski
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(Original post by scrotgrot)
Because prior to dismantling something that took a lot of time and effort to build you should always examine whether it can be fixed.
It didn't though. It's something that has evolved, not been built. We never opted into the EU, we opted into the Common Market. Everything has changed since then.

And who says anything about dismantling? Simply opting out does not mean that others can't have it. France opted out of NATO, didn't stop NATO existing.
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scrotgrot
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
...surely the logical extent of my argument is anarcho individualism, though? democracy is a state-based political system. anarchism, if we follow through with totality in terms of devolving decision making processes, would mean that the most devolved system of personal decisions is for individuals and not communities?
Yes, that is basically his objection. You're over-academicising the problem and arguing it right to the extremes. I have defined the terms of the argument and I expect them to be followed; if you want to debate this sort of thing, please create your own thread or go to one of the dozens of threads that have been made in the past week. I'll be happy to engage with you there.
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scrotgrot
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(Original post by Drewski)
It didn't though. It's something that has evolved, not been built. We never opted into the EU, we opted into the Common Market. Everything has changed since then.

And who says anything about dismantling? Simply opting out does not mean that others can't have it. France opted out of NATO, didn't stop NATO existing.
Now we're getting somewhere - not what I proposed to debate in the first post, but at least it's somewhere. So please outline your specific gripes with the EU as against the Common Market. Are they related to governance and the instruments of democracy, or something else?

Opting out is the same. The EU undoubtedly does have some benefits for us, surely nobody could be Eurosceptic enough to pretend it was all bad. Prior to opting out completely, shouldn't we figure out what can be done to change it from the inside? Also, note that the fact that most countries voted for stepping back from Europe. That is why it's not a unilateral problem. What specific reforms should these parties press for within the EU prior to opting out completely?
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anarchism101
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(Original post by zippity.doodah)
...surely the logical extent of my argument is anarcho individualism, though? democracy is a state-based political system. anarchism, if we follow through with totality in terms of devolving decision making processes, would mean that the most devolved system of personal decisions is for individuals and not communities?
Well, there are some within anarchism who've proposed this line of reasoning, but the problem is that what some see as exercising their own individual sovereignty, others see as violating others' individual sovereignty.

Within this framework, localised, participatory, consensus-based democratic decision-making is as much a practical as a moral solution.
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Drewski
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(Original post by scrotgrot)
Now we're getting somewhere - not what I proposed to debate in the first post, but at least it's somewhere. So please outline your specific gripes with the EU as against the Common Market. Are they related to governance and the instruments of democracy, or something else?
I have no specific gripes with it, I'm merely presenting the devil's advocate point, that it is not something we chose to be part of, it is something that has 'just' come about and is now exerting a level of control that was never the original intention. Countries then deciding to opt out of that, an organisation it never actually joined in it's current format, does not mean that that organisation then has to dismantle.

I don't see how you can logically make the leap that not liking something means that it then has to be destroyed, rather than you simply deciding not to be a part of it.
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