TCS Daily


Brussels Will Lose Moral Authority on Democracy

By Marian Tupy - December 21, 2007 12:00 AM

The leaders of 27 member states of the European Union met this month in Lisbon, Portugal, to sign a new constitutional treaty that will, they hope, replace the previous draft that was rejected in 2005. With his typical penchant for hyperbole, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso declared, "From this old continent, a new Europe is born." In fact, the planned ratification of the Lisbon Treaty smacks of old Europe - when the ruling elite got its way regardless of the wishes of the people over whom it ruled.

The Lisbon Treaty is a major new step toward the United States of Europe. It would be reasonable to expect, therefore, for the people of Europe to be given a say over its adoption in national referenda. So far, only the government of Ireland, where the EU is very popular, has decided to hold a referendum. Other governments will try to ram the Treaty through national parliaments. This is a blatant attempt to short-circuit the political process in countries where the EU's popularity is on the decline.

Clearly, the EU elite is trying to avoid the fate of the original EU constitution that was resoundingly defeated by the French and Dutch voters. Since unanimous approval among Europe's then 25 members was necessary for the constitution to come into effect, the elated opposition pronounced the document dead and declared victory. Abandoning the constitution was never seriously contemplated by the bureaucrats in Brussels, who declared a period of Europe-wide "reflection" and "consultation" - a meaningless drivel that turned out to be nothing but a prelude to a reintroduction of a "simplified" Lisbon Treaty two years later. Like a zombie, the EU constitution rose from the dead. Killing it for the second time will be much more difficult, however.

Having learned that the European publics cannot be trusted to share and to appreciate their political masters' vision for Europe, the European politicians have decided to subject the Lisbon Treaty to parliamentary approval only. Their gamble is that no parliament will dare to strike the treaty down thus earning the ire of the rest of the EU. They are probably right.

Some national constitutions, including the Danish one, require that referenda be held before further national sovereignty can be ceded to the EU. That is why Jens-Peter Bonde, a Danish member of the European parliament has threatened to challenge the legality of the likely parliamentary vote in the Danish constitutional court. Bonde seems to be on firm ground. The Danish government, after all, held a referendum in 1986 over the Single European Act and again in 1992 over the Maastricht Treaty. In the latter case, the "Yes" campaign lost and the government was forced to re-negotiate the terms of the Maastricht Treaty on terms that more closely reflected the wishes of the Danish electorate.

This time around, the Danish government claims that no referendum is needed, because no new powers will be transferred to Brussels. Yet that assessment is in direct conflict what everyone else seems to believe. If the constitutional treaty is adopted, Britain's Daily Telegraph estimates, United Kingdom will lose sovereign decision-making in 40 areas of policy, including energy, tourism, transport, and migration. Even the generally pro-European Labor government does not deny that it will lose the power of veto in a number of important areas.

Whether the courts will step in and overrule national parliaments remains an open question, of course. The original constitution was challenged in Germany and Slovakia, for example, but in both countries the courts failed to reach a judgment before the Dutch and French referenda took place. Were they contemplating the merits of the cases before them or kicking the problem into the long grass, hoping that it would go away?

From the start, the Europeans leaders were very clear about the need to "camouflage" the far-reaching effects of the constitutional treaty from the European peoples. Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who presided over the drafting of the original document, for example, said that "Public opinion will be led to accept, without realizing it, provisions that nobody dared to present directly." If that happens, the EU will lose whatever moral right it retains to lecture other countries about the virtues of democracy.

Marian L. Tupy is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, and author of a Cato study EU Enlargement: Costs, Benefits, and Strategies for Central and Eastern European Countries.

Categories:

9 Comments

Remote government self-justification for existence
The further remote government is from the People, the less able it is to represent their wishes, the less reason exists for its existence.

The more People as individuals abdicate personal value, Rights, and responsibility, the more eager they are to serve a collectivist form and system of government until its nature systemizes political and social cannibalism.

The history of mankind is replete with continuous consentual examples played out in most countries by the so-called "pragmatic" 'Monday Morning Quarterbacks' who never ever learn that definitive principles of human nature ought be to rule - not opinion.

semper fidelis
vincit veritas

It's been lost for years already
The only question is whether those euro-elitists snobs hold the people in more contempt, or if the people hold their political tormenters more in contempt. The only place that really seems to like democracy is Switzerland. And no, I don't think everybody else would vote in slavery again if allowed to. And in constitutional democracies you can't have such a 'tyranny of the majority' anyway.

socialists have never had much use for democracy
The world is run so much better, when the masses just do what they are told.

The ratification of the US Consitution...
...did not involve referendums by the people, either.
It only required that the Constitution get legislative approval from nine of the thirteen states.

So...we Yanks aren't exactly ones to chide Europe on this issue.

slight difference
We actually got legislative approval. The Euros are not even doing that. Checkout Gordon Brown signing and Parliament was not even asked.

Thing is that even the legislatures in Europe would not give approval to this unanimously and the people surely do not approve.

Another difference
Humanity knows better now. And we have the techonology now.

If those in power don't do it, it is for their own (ulterior) motives.

They can not claim ignorance.

not so slight
In Britain, the signing and ratifying of treaties is still within the Royal Perogative. Gordo isn't required to have parliamentary approval. That's a special case that shouldn't fall into comparison in my view.

Other nations do, just like in the US. And, as the article noted, some constitutions like the Danish and Irish require public referenda to approve. That's more than any of the US public got in 1787.

In the US, it didn't EVEN occur to the Founding Fathers to include the will of the People, popular with them or not. The vast majority simply didn't care. And, the legislative votes even then were close in some states.

Another note: The original Articles of Confederation required unanimous consent by all the States prior to dissolution, too. The politicians realized that they weren't going to get that unanimous consent, so went with the ratifications requirements in the US Constitution. In other words, the Articles of Confederation were never abolished. The government operating under it was just 'castrated' instead (defunded and 'de-participated'). It is interesting how that history repeats itself -- only with the Euroweenies being much more stupid than our Founding Fathers.

Definitive Principles?
"...that definitive principles of human nature ought be to rule..."

Please list/explain the "definitive principles" of human nature?

Eurabia - the self flushing toilet
The new charter will hopefully show the USA what happens when ninnies, nannies and nuts are left to run the asylum.

Now it is another question entirely if the USA will learn from the EU's mistake or if we will also flush ourselves via nationalized healthcare, living wages, sanctuary cities, compassionate conservatism, Democrat appeasement, move-on stupidity and the ever expanding geezer "gimmie" crowd.

TCS Daily Archives