Understanding the European Union’s facade democracy

It is quite amazing that the European Commission has never really addressed the question of European democracy. Neither a White Paper nor a Green Paper has been issued to reflect upon the concept of supranational democracy that has been under discussion since the very foundations of the European Community/Union. The issue of a democratic deficit pops up regularly but is never worked on consistently. The same observation is true for the European Parliament (EP) which seems to be much more interested in the matter of its twin location (Strasbourg/Brussels) than in the question how to push for more European democracy.

By Wolfgang Kowalsky

In the end, the crisis has swept away the discussions on European democracy like a hurricane. “The cost of non-Europe” may have been calculated but nobody has yet estimated the cost of non-democracy that is already helping to undermine public support for European integration.

Pressure to increase genuine democracy at a European level regularly emanates from outside the European institutions, through active citizens but also NGOs, intellectuals, philosophers, political scientists and other forces within civil society. So, in recent years, ideas have popped up such as the proposal to choose the Commission president through general elections, to abolish the Commission’s monopoly on the right to legislate by extending it to the EP, to establish a Eurozone Parliament, to adopt a European Constitution etc. At the European elections of 2014, mainstream political parties campaigned under a European ‘top candidate’ (Spitzenkandidat) and the Council had to give way by nominating the winner of the elections as Commission president. The hope that this enhanced personalisation would lead to higher turnout was, however, dashed.

It’s no coincidence that the Commission tends to favour technocratic solutions. The ECB works without any clear democratic control or supervision; the same goes for most of the European (regulatory) agencies. Even inside the legislative process the Commission pushes for technocratic methods involving so called experts chosen by itself, relying on the so called “comitology” process, hundreds of expert groups and advisory committees, most of them not very transparent. Sometimes, even the EP admits that this trend goes too far and tries to keep it under control.

But, for some years now, the Parliament – the so-called heartbeat of European democracy that should always side with those forces pushing for more democracy – has changed sides and voluntarily accepts quite undemocratic procedures: the habit of adopting European legislation in a single reading, in a trialogue between Commission, EP and Council behind closed doors – without taking into account comments from outside the European institutions. This is a clear setback for democracy.

Lees dit artikel van Wolfgang Kowalsky verder op Social Europe