I must admit I was a bit surprised when I received a press release from the European Parliament last week. It said tersely:
Communiqué de presse – 24.06.2010.
Eighteen additional MEPs a step closer to starting work
The 18 additional MEPs envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty are a step closer to starting work. The treaty change needed to enable them to do so was approved by Member State representatives at a brief Intergovernmental Conference on 23 June, after a green light from Parliament. The 18 MEPs can start work only after EU Member States have ratified the change (My emphasis)
A Brief IGC – you’re telling me. A tad secret too. I was well aware that the European Parliament was aiming to add a few party friends at public expense. That was expected. They even had a debate and a motion. Enlarging Parliament was part of the secret deal made as part of the secret negotiations for the Lisbon Treaty. (Secret because the public was not asked about it. It was an agreement between party political leaders who take extra public money without asking the public’s permission.)
All such agreements have to be agreed by the representatives of the nations. The public might like to ask: How would governments defend the extra expense at a time when governments of the PIGS are tottering trying to control their overspending and budget abuse.
However, the Blitz Inter-Governmental Conference shot past me. I was glad I wasn’t hit by the lightning. I attended the European Council on 17 June. I listened at the press conference. Not a whisper about an IGC. An obscure reference to one of its internal documents and ‘necessary procedure‘ is in the conclusions. For democrats debate is also a ‘necessary procedure.‘ By that I mean a debate between the politicals and the public, simply because a majority of the public has increasingly shown at elections its distrust for the politicals.
(Politicals are the politicians, the parties and the political party systems that say they are representatives of the people but act as a cartel against the people for their own career, financial or party advantage.)
So we have a secret, closed door European Council unwilling to have a public debate on vital matters of democracy. What does it do? Add further obscurity and secret meetings to avoid a public debate.
Why? Were the politicians afraid they might get some awkward questions? It might seem a bit inopportune to publicise the increase in MEPs. People might also ask about why MEPs are also asking to spend more on assistants and other matters during a financial crisis. Others might ask why more MEPs when at every election, more and more of the electorate is refusing to vote for any of them?
At the Council building I did not find any communiqué later about this IGC. I asked the Council for the communiqué. I was told there wasn’t one. An IGC was held with no one knowing about it. So-called democratic governments did not deem it necessary to tell anyone about the IGC. It involved the date and place for governments’ decisions on a major change of representational democracy for 500 million people and the largest economic power in the world. It would give governments reasons about how this would underpin the euro and democratically resolve the crisis. No press release was published after the secret meeting took place.
The IGC hid behind closed doors in the COREPER committee. This is a committee of civil servants called permanent representatives. They are not even politicians. They were talking secretly amongst themselves about something else that would affect the European public. Then they changed hats, declared an IGC ‘in the margins‘ as they say, and pronounced a Treaty Change. That is the New Lisbon Democracy? Phew! Closed doors, civil servants making decisions on major democracy issues, no press, no questions.
An Inter-Governmental Conference used to mean something. Now it means a rubber stamp by bureaucrats. Thus the European Council is confirming its disdain for democracy. It is saying its version of democracy — or rather its governance system — is what we say it is. No open debates. Another word for that is autocracy.
I have a proposal. Now the Council has developed a lightning technique for European decisions, I would like to know if the national politicians can start to catch up on the backlog of duties. Some urgent Treaty implementations have been on ice for nearly sixty years. The Six governments signed up to these promises in 1951 and 1957 and other States immediately on their accession. These Treaty articles said surprisingly that the European Parliament should be European. That means Europe-wide elections under a single statute, the same for all electors.
A quick IGC could arrange that, next time, there is a pan-European election to the European Parliament. In other words the governments would forswear from cheating and having 27 national elections to the European Parliament. Each one is presently arranged according to national rules that curiously favour the main political parties in the State. A touch of honesty would therefore be helpful.
The Treaty of Paris, the founding treaty of the European community and the two treaties of Rome all agree. There should be a single election where electors can vote for any candidate in any country of the Community. Each elector should have one vote not up to twelve as some are now allowed to have.
The people must be ‘free to choose‘ to quote from the Community’s founding Charter, Europe’s Declaration of Inter-Dependence. Half a century ago, Schuman wrote:
‘In the not too distant future it is necessary to provide for elections with direct universal suffrage of the members of the Assembly which will exercise the powers of control, in conformity with the Charter of the Community. Article 138 (of the Economic Community) moreover gives this Parliament the mandate to draw up such a such a draft electoral project. The statute must be uniform for all Member States. It is certain that people’s consciousness of a united Europe would be intensified and be more physically manifested if it could be regularly affirmed by a vote across the entirety of Europe,’ (Pour l’Europe pp146-7)
Come on Council of Ministers. We know you can do it! Try getting your democratic priorities right!
While the Council of Ministers is in the business of Blitz-IGCs, would it not be possible to give adequate notice so people could ask questions. And can the IGCs and the Council be open to the public as the Founding Fathers said they should be?
Thank you, Council.
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