Commission Debate 6: Proof that the Commission must be independent and that there never were national Commissioners
27, April, 2009
First step: Read the Treaties!
Here’s what Europe’s founding treaty says: “Members … shall exercise their functions in complete independence, in the general interest of the Community. In the fulfilment of their duties, they shall neither solicit nor accept instructions from any government or from any organization. They shall abstain from all conduct incompatible with the supranational character of their functions.” (Treaty of Paris, article 9).
In the next line the treaty forbids the governments from trying to influence the Members. “Each Member State undertakes to respect this supranational character and not to seek to influence the members … in the execution of their duties.”
The present Nice Treaty says much the same thing … with one exception. Nationalists and Gaullists feared or objected to the word, supranational. Supranational democracy was one thing they did not want. Why? It would quickly show them up as less than democratic at home! They therefore caused this word to be struck out at the first revision of the treaties.
It was a futile gesture. The meaning is the same. Supranational means that the Commission is totally independent of all interests. The main text remains. They cut the word but not the definition and the legal obligation. They could not replace it. No government had the audacity to try to substitute it with a phrase that said: ‘Member States have the right to influence a Commissioner especially if the Commissioner is of the same nationality and it is a Gaullist government or nationalist government of that ilk.’ That would be just like saying we have the right to bribe the referee in a football match.
In theory, in law and by agreement in this compact made between all democratic member states, Commissioners remain free to make proposals subject only to their own judgement (which should be based on wide European experience and impartial information) and their conscience. They have to form judgements based on talking out questions of Europe in detail in conjunction with the other members, exercising the same faculties of honesty, analysis and non-ideological deductions.
In practice what is happening today? Governments feel free to act in total disregard to their legal obligations. The governments ask Commissioners to resign and become ministers. The governments have no right to do this. Nor have the Commissioners have any right to take up such a ministerial post – according to the law of the treaties. They also signed a pledge at the start of the term saying that they would take no instructions from a government. What can be more serious as an instruction than if someone says to you: Resign! We will give you another job.
The Founding Fathers in order to stop dead such abuse, wrote into the original treaty that no Commissioner was allowed to take a job, remunerated or not, within three years of resigning or leaving office. Do the present Commissioners have no shame?
Who are these Commissioners replaced with? Why another politician of course. Some countries like the UK have the effrontery of replacing a man with a woman. Effrontery? The UK government explains that they are equal opportunity employers! What! Are only politicians equal? This is right out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm! Everyone is equal but politicians are more equal than others! I imagine our governments could open George Orwell’s eyes on a few other ideas. There are some 60 million people in the UK, and I did not see an advertisement asking qualified people to apply for the job. Please drop me a line if anyone saw it!!
Some 500 million people are watching and judging the Commissioners as to whether they are independent. Some pass the test; others fail. It is far too tempting for Commissioners to assume they must become a champion for a particular interest group or political ideology. For those outside such interest groups, they look as trustworthy as a crooked cop.
For national leaders, selecting the Commission presents them with another temptation. What better place to create high-paid jobs for the political boys and girls that they did not want at home, than to send them to Brussels? The voting public on the other hand has now got a real Litmus test to show whether politicians at home are really honest. Do they insist that the Commission should not be a dumping ground for politicians? Check the record of the last decade since new treaties began to be discussed! In recent years hardly one has passed the test. We are in a period not so much of a democratic deficit but a ‘surplus of arrogance’, as one commissioner called it.
And it is the allegedly democratic political parties who are installing this new big brother and big sister oligarchy.David Heilbron Price
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