Commission Debate 10: Proof that the Founding Fathers excluded national political representatives from being Commissioners
19, June, 2009
According to the law of the jungle, powerful beasts dominate and exploit the weak and unprotected. It is the law of Europe’s history over centuries. The only viable and successful alternative so far tried is the remarkable supranational innovation of Community democracy. It protected the weak, reconciled former enemies and laid the foundation for a properous, democratic model for the world.
Europe’s politicians, lacking moral and political courage, embroiled in an undemocratic cabal to foister the incoherent Constitutional/Lisbon Treaty are set on a shameful path. It corrupts the democratic potential of the existing treaties, making reform even more difficult. They are intent to undermine Europe‘s only successful peace system by attacking the independence of the Commission. This represents the lowest common denominator of politics.
The founding fathers made it impossible to have one national representative each in the Commission. They designed the Commission to EXCLUDE political representatives of the States themselves. To its shame, the recent French presidency of the Council put a proposal forward that the opposite principle should now apply; the Commission should be exclusively composed of national political representatives. Did any of the politicians ask themselves, if this is such an obvious idea, why did the founding fathers ban and exclude it outright?
The proposal is diametrically opposed to the present Nice Treaty. It allowed a temporary increase in Commission membership while the great enlargement of central and Eastern Europe was taking place, on condition that this was immediately reversed to re-establish the original principle of a smaller Commission. The proposal to replace the Commission with one with national representatives shows how much the French and other States have lost the original democratic vision for uniting Europe in peace. It is an indication of the political immaturity of the leaders. And it is not me that makes this severe judgement but the Founding Fathers of Europe themselves.
How can we be sure that these experienced democrats banned the idea of Commision composed of national representatives? Firstly, the supranational Community method was acclaimed as a great democratic innovation and the real means for European reconciliation. It was considered a superior form of democracy and was agreed by all founder States. It put an end to the power politics that Europe had known for centuries, the law of the jungle. Obviously writing a power-politics system inside the Commission would be illogical and end in the same centuries-long squabbles. It would hardly be worthy of their praise.
Secondly it is clear from the treaties. The two treaties of Rome comprise one on nuclear non-proliferation Euratom, and the other on a Customs Union, the Economic Community, (called by some the Common Market). In the former there are only FIVE Commissioners, while there were SIX Member States. The treaty was designed so that the governments would have to choose Commissioners for their fairness and experience, not for their nationality. The governments had to name these Commissioners by common accord. Hence if it was not fair, any State or States that did not have a national as a Commissioner, finding the choice biased, could refuse the choice of one or more up to five candidates.
The other treaty of Rome dealing with the Economic Community had similar philosophy. There were nine Commissioners and six States. Did this mean that the big States (France, Germany and Italy) would have two Commissioners, and the Benelux countries would have one each? Not at all. That is nowhere said in the treaty. The idea is largely a propaganda invention of Gaullist times. For an egotistic national leader, it was inconceivable that France should not have the maximum, two Commissioners. That was not the intention of the treaty-writers.
All the treaty says is that the Commission may not have more than two members of the same nationality. That applies to Luxembourg as much as Germany or France. The members are chosen ‘for their general competence who can offer every guarantee of independence.’ Article 157. Contrary to what nationalist believe, talent and competence can be found in other nations. Independence too. Are smaller countries able to treat other nations and their economies as equals? Quite often.
Independent professional people after adequate discussion come together to agree on matters like common standards, fair treatment and conclusions of scientific experiments. These universal or supranational values are the basis for most professional associations, whether engineers, scientists, grocers or shoemakers.
It is illogical to argue that Europe must be divided among Big Boys with two Commissioners (and by implication with two votes, assuming voting was necessary) and small countries with one Commissioner. How then can one specify one representative is good enough for The Netherlands with fifteen million population and one representative should go to Luxembourg with less than half a million? Nowhere does the treaty explain that the Commissioners should be chosen by the population size of a country or by GDP or anything else. Remember that there is also one treaty for coal and steel, should this use production as a criterion? If so, what? coal? or steel? For the Common Market not all goods and services are included. For example energy (including gas/petroleum) and transport were not included because the founding fathers anticipated at Messina that Energy and Transport Communities would be created specifically dealing with these pan-European challenges.
This bad habit of arguing on ‘power’ and not justice has led the most recent treaty planners to get into the most complex and Byzantine weighted voting systems for the Council, theoretical and unworkable in practice. The Council is highly reluctant to reveal its undemocratic procedures, running roughshod over citizens’ interests. It has still not opened all meetings to the public as Schuman required and one would expect of a democratic body. However, some voting sessions are available to the public — the public exposure of Council methods will astonish any democrat. See for example how governments deal imperiously with the protests of small and medium enterprises, supposedly the motor of the European economy.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4116399771660063665 This is a far cry from the principles Schuman laid down that defined democracy as ‘acting at the service of the people and in agreement with the people’
During the Gaullist period Commission membership became more subject to nationalistic pressures, as de Gaulle wanted the ‘French’ Commissioners to be Gaullists espousing his ideas of dominance, not Europeans seeking to expand the interest of all. A voting system had to be introduced. Previously consensus was reached by open discussion based on supranational (universal) values of fairness. A Commission composed of national representatives will descend to the equivalent of the abuse that the Council reveals in this video. A return to the jungle!
Many matters of the citizens are of great technical complexity, often beyond the ken of the ministers. Worse, some ministers may be victims of lobbyists, whose efforts then secretly become national policy. Today some industrial companies have offices INSIDE national ministries. Cartels can easily bamboozle ignorant and egotistical politicians. MEPs, although more open, are also often not really qualified to discuss such complex matters intelligently. The interaction of such technical matters for all entrepreneurs, workers and consumers should be discussed in detail in the chamber reserved for technical debate in organized civil society, the Economic and Social Committee. Instead it is still chloroformed of democratic representation, put to sleep in the Gaullist period. It should be elected and fully representative as the treaties say.
The treaties give the possibility to governments — which are assumed to be honest or to become more honest with the organic development of an open European process — to choose Commission Members on the basis mature democracy. That is, they will become less nationalistic and begin to treat their neighbouring States as democratic too. One democratic State should begin to treat another as trustworthy.
If desirable for the common European benefit, they were free to chose two eminently qualified Luxembourgers (because the two candidates are the best choice for Europe) and only one for France. Did they ever do this? Not on your life! No wonder the Gaullists shook with fear and trembling that honesty and justice would spread elsewhere! Give up ‘their’ seat to foreigners! Unthinkable! It would be a scandal for de Gaulle if puny Luxembourg had more POWER than the glorious France. It was an unspeakable insult to him that Luxembourg even had the right to criticise France in the three common markets of the treaties. That is the behaviour of an immature child having a tantrum, not a democrat. De Gaulle’s main character flaw, said Schuman, was that he lacked belief in the universal values on which the Community was founded. He ended up in not trusting anyone, to the detriment of all.
Thirdly, the treaties make it clear that impartiality is the main criterion for Commission membership. This rules out the idea of national representatives. The founding Treaty of Paris, 1951, establishing the Community system and the single market for coal and steel, affirms the principle. It makes sure that the members cannot be yesmen of the States. How? because one of the members was co-opted, that is selected from all possible European candidates available, by the ones that had been nominated already by governments for their impartiality.
The High Authority as the first Commission was known, was given eight Commissioners who had to be chosen unanimously by the Six States. Unanimity meant that any State could object if a candidate was biased, nationalistic or political. A ninth member was chosen by the eight as a co-opted member according to Article 10 of the Treaty. Schuman wanted to see half the members of this first Commission co-opted by the others, who themselves would be independent and impartial characters. Thus the Commissioners would be free to determine the fairest means to choose their colleagues in line with European values FROM THE WHOLE POPULATION of Community Europe. The principle is clear. The best system should be developed to make the Commissioners as independent of Member States as possible.
Even with just one co-opted member it was also difficult or impossible to work out a system of national representatives based which State would get ‘their’ Commissioner. How could Member States share out eight seats between them including tiny Luxembourg (with a big steel industry) and giant Germany with ample supplies of coal? Belgium’s coal industry was flat broke and had to be supported by State subsidy. The other five States would have to take on some of this burden and find new employment for the miners, some of them non-Belgian.
These questions show that the people chosen to fill the seats were chosen because of their independence, honesty and experience. Schuman considered ways to have more co-opted members because if the existing Commissioners were fairly independent, then the co-opted members may well be more so. The sad story is that governments can rarely be trusted to be impartial, whether about their own citizens, and even less about ‘foreigners’.
Fourthly, the treaties say that the smallest number of Commissioners is preferable. This is further borne out by another line in the Paris treaty’s Paragraph 9 ‘The numbers of members of the High Authority may be reduced by unanimous decision of the Council.’ Note it does not say the numbers could be expanded to pay salaries to more worn-out politicians, but reduced. Thus the founding fathers wished to emphasize once again that the number of members had nothing to do with nationality. The reduction could be made once the Community was working well and only a few wise and independent people were needed. It could only take place when democracies trusted each other.
Did the governments reduce the number of members? Not once during the fifty years of Europe’s first Community! That is further proof of the prolonged political infancy of Europe’s democratic leaders! They behaved like squabbling children for half a century. What a disgraceful record !
To come: How to elect members of the Commission, and how not to do it.Author : David Heilbron Price
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