Well well well. In the spirit of the new GC design celebrating short comments, here is my 50 cents. It’s prompted by a blog post in my native tongue, Danish, which most of you will be unable to read (don’t trust google translate with minor languages): http://mchangama.blogs.berlingske.dk/2011/06/12/evigt-solskin-i-et-pletfrit-sind/.
Anyway the post is by thorough nice guy and chief legal officer for the Danish liberal think-tank, CEPOS, Jacob Mchangama. It’s not very serious but concerns some ridiculous law-proposals over the last few years that he has stumbled upon.
One of these law-proposals is from 2008 and concerns the outlawing of poverty (http://bit.ly/l4sMng). Yes, you read correctly. The Danish far-left Red-Green Alliance have four MPs (out of 179) who in all sincerity proposed to “ban poverty”. In praxis they were going to do this by raising government benefits to ridiculous levels.
Whereas the rest of us might laugh at suggestions like these, there is a more serious context that this proposal is part of. The fact that the Red-Green Alliance is only able to muster 4 MPs and close to zero influence is somewhat of a relief to me and I believe it is one of the strengths of a functioning democracy. Idiots can only get so far…
Of course the fact that these people refuse to be part of compromises that do not follow their heads and nothing but their heads, does not help giving them more influence either. But that is a different story all-together.
My point is that most people recognize the Red-Green Alliance for what they are, air-heads, and so they don’t vote for them. Therefore proposals such as the above are put forth and quickly brushed aside by the rest of the diet in what is an expression of the combined popular mandate to try and move this country forward – not to ruin.
Now we are getting to the serious part. Because Denmark is part of EU, today the majority of new laws passed in the Danish diet today come not from democratically elected representatives but from various EU-organs in Brussels.
EU has a deep-seated and very troubling problem with democratic legitimacy. The populations get to vote directly for the European Parliament but their role is more or less confined to voting yes or no to proposals stemming from the Council of Ministers and the from the Commission – who are not elected but rather selected. In 2008 the president of the European Commission, Barroso, acknowledged the problem with his own legitimacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_European_Commission#Elections
Additionally, more and more interpretations of laws applying to my country have no connection to it but are handed down from the European Court of Justice.
At the moment EU, as an institution, manages to change its own rules of operation without asking the populations.
Negotiations to modify EU institutions began internally in 2001, resulting first in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which was put to a vote among two (France and the Netherlands) out of 27 member states and then abandoned in 2005 after being rejected by both. After some cosmetic modifications the Lisbon Treaty was proposed as an amendment of the existing Treaties. It was originally intended to have been ratified by all member states by the end of 2008. This timetable failed, again when the Irish electorate, the only population allowed to vote this time, turned it down. A decision which was reversed in a second referendum in 2009.
Opinion polls across the union consistently show that populations are highly suspicious of what is going on in Brussels – but they can only influence the direction very indirectly. In the recent Finnish elections a new party, True Finns, running on an EU-critical platform won a landslide victory when the Finns objected to footing the bill for bailing out Portugal (and Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland).
Long story short. We may be able to laugh at the silliness of our own politicians but at least we are able to influence how much power they are going to have. EU bureaucrats, judges and politicians are out of anything but cosmetic democratic reach. It seems more like they have made a sport out of avoiding us pesky voters who come up with opinions of our own.
At the moment Brussels is concocting plans to write out direct taxes instead of going through national parliaments. The EU was established, among other reasons, to act as a stabilizing power in the face of undemocratic challenges from the Eastern Communist bloc. EU did not beat the communists. Instead is seems they are joining them.