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EU Referendum: the anti-democratic Union

2016-03-02 06:20:55

It seems to be almost an absolute that those who are most in favour of the EU are those who know least about it, and how it works.

And although that cannot be true as so many leavers are also profoundly ignorant about the ways of the EU it is certainly the case that EU supporters such as Hugo Dixon are not exactly brimming with knowledge about the construct they so much love.

In this case, in a 1,000-word piece for the Guardian, he is parading his ignorance about the demonstrably anti-democratic nature of the EU, failing completely to understand the reasons why this should be so.

Issues such a the treatment of Italy and Greece come to the fore, and one hears the litany of complaints about excessive bureaucracy, the unelected European commissioners, portrayed as "faceless bureaucrats", and the fact that the Council of Ministers legislated behind closed doors.

Also mentioned is the "even bigger weakness" of the EU's remoteness and the low turnout of the European parliament. And in all this, the views of some of our less-informed "eurosceptic" are relied upon to add supposed depth to Mr Dixon's case, one in which he asserts that the EU has its flaws "but calling it anti-democratic is falsifying reality".

In all this, however, neither Mr Dixon nor any of those he calls to bolster his case get close to pinning down the main reason, if not single reason, why the EU not only fails as a democratic construct, but contrary to Mr Dixon's assertion, is also quite distinctly anti-democratic.

The lack of democracy the so-called democratic deficit is perhaps something that can be fixed, or at least partially improved. But there is no cure for something which is inherently anti-democratic short of changing it beyond recognition.

And that factor which makes the EU anti-democratic is the European Commission and its "right of initiative", the fact that is has the monopoly power to propose new legislation.

This has two-closely linked effects. Firstly, and obviously, this means that no law (or legislative initiative) can be pursued without the approval and direct participation of the Commission. It cannot be forced to act, and it is accountable to no one if it chooses to refuse action.

The allied issue is one of removal or amendment of existing laws. The point here is that, in order to do either, another law must be proposed it takes a law to remove or amend an existing law. With its right of initiative, only the Commission can decide on whether that will happen. No matter how bad or unpopular a law might be, if the Commission digs in its heels, it stays.

This right of initiative is not accidental. This was deliberately introduced by architect of the Union, Jean Monnet as a means of making it politician-proof. He intended that powers should be vested exclusively in its "Platonic guardians", rendering them totally immune to the vagaries of democracy.

To understand this is to appreciate that the institution is beyond change. To have the Commission set up in any different way would be so fundamentally change the nature and dynamics of the European Union that it would no longer be the same organisation.

Thus, whatever Dixon might think, the EU is an anti-democratic construct. It was designed to be anti-democratic and cannot function in any other way and still be the EU. It could possibly become a democratic organisation but, if it did, it would no longer be the European Union.