Is the EU a democracy? It is a damning commentary on the democratic ethics of the 27 governments of the EU that they choose the President of the European Commission in secret, without any recourse to democracy. The press is shut out. Rumours fly around. Candidates for the Commission sometimes mysteriously appear. Yet no advertisement for the post has been published. Sometimes only one candidate is discussed. Sometimes more. Who are these candidates? None other than the political buddies of government leaders. They all hold political party cards. They are floated by Europe’s political machines that represent no more than two percent of the citizenship.
A golf club where a clique excludes ordinary golfers and elects its leader in secret is suspicious enough, but is this stitch-up what Europeans want for the leader of the world’s largest economic super-power?
No other citizen — however well qualified — has a ghost of a chance to be considered. An impartial, non-political, and independent-minded person with civic courage is considered an outcaste by the Council. The struggle against Sovietization of Europe brought many courageous people to prominence. To succeed in the EU, they have to play the western game. Western Europeans have their own variation of the same danger of Soviet party control. In the DDR, the Democratic Republic of (East) Germany, there were parties called ‘Christian Democats’, ‘Liberals’, ‘Farmers’ and ‘National Democrats’ and the Socialists Unity Party. They were undemocratic Communist front organisations. The people were not allowed to express their thoughts freely. And the government repressed and stamped on anything that strayed from its narrow and misguided ideological line.
Have we learned the lesson? The Council only wants party political people. The 98 percent of the population who do not purchase party cards as ‘Christian Democrats’, ‘Liberals’ or ‘Socialists’ are non-people. Such methods by so-called democratic governments would not be amiss in North Korea or in the Soviet satellites. They called themselves “people’s democracies” but they were neither of the people or for the people. They were not democratic. They were counterfeits.
Real democracy, said Schuman, relates to common goals and the means to attain them. It is at the service of the people and acts in agreement with the people. It has nothing to do with control by party political machines.
All this chicanery is a sad reflection on the present set-up in the Council of Ministers. In reality it has become a political cabal, a cartel, that refuses to ask people their views. It is the last thrash of de Gaulle’s system. It is far, far from the democratic principles that Robert Schuman announced sixty years ago. It is a far cry from the principles of Human Rights that Schuman and others formulated in 1948-50 and set as European law. It is common Human Rights law that defines eligibility to a Community system, not geography. These rights implying equality of all citizens provide the very foundation of the New Europe.
How should Europeans elect the European Commission? Who should be the Europe’s leader? Shouldn’t all Europeans be involved in the election?
This is one of the most important questions for 500 million European citizens. Why is it so little discussed? Governments like to make fast decisions so that their choice is not questioned. Their choice becomes de facto the President. A moment’s reflection would indicate that it is very dubious from a de jure point of view. It is illegal. That is why the action of the Council of Ministers is a shame and a disgrace.
The European Commission is the most important body for the political, economic and social future of the European Union. The President of the Commission is the key position in the world’s most important commercial power, the European Union. Why then the shifty, devious, deceitful and underhand methodology to avoid the public having any say in the matter?
The Americans make a huge razzmatazz about electing their President. Public debates, mass rallies and the expenditure of around a billion dollars weed out candidates who are not suitable to major interests. In one sense, the Commission President is the European equivalent of the President of the United States of America. In actual fact it is far more important. Why? Well the European Union is a larger economic power than the United States. It is the world’s economic super-power. The USA is in full financial, political and military crisis. The dollar and the US economy have slumped, cankered by banking frauds and external debts. The Euro is constrained by statute from such reckless overspending.
As the USA is learning painfully, economic power is probably more important than military power. Military action and war, as well as burning billions of federal funds, can have the opposite policy effect from what was planned. Afghanistan and Iraq are still ablaze with intractable violence and festering with corruption. Instead of pacifying a situation once dominated by a dictator or an area where a terrorist was resident, unwise armed action has bred a plague of copycat terrorism and anti-Americanism.
What is even more important than both military and economic power is moral power. And beyond that wisdom. A smooth tongue and slick public relations are too often counter-productive, and sometimes totally disastrous. In the global society of today, respect and acquiescence to a nation’s values requires a leader with sterling character and a person who can communicate by word and action that he or she is leading in the right direction. A State can be as small as Switzerland and have a great affect on world politics. A group of nations acting in moral unison is exponentially more influential.
That is why potentially the European leader can be far more important than the leader of any single country. If Europe has such a policy option for the world, isn’t the election of a European President of enormous importance for the planet? The Commission President must work inside a system where impartiality, independence and moral character are required to bring together some thirty countries with different traditions and histories. That requires someone who will listen, someone who is humble, courageous and wise and not a rabble-rouser or the tool of a public relations agency working for hidden interests.
Europe needs an ethically robust system to choose a real leader with civic guts and moral courage.
To Come: Various ways to choose the European CommissionDavid Heilbron Price
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