20, October, 2009
How should we elect the Commission? And what about the staff — the European civil servants? The first question to ask is: What is the Commission for? Then it can be decided who is to be recruited and how. Is the destiny of the Commission to be the poodle of the Council? If the Commissioners are all to be political, and composed of national or even nationalistic representatives (as the national politicians decided secretly in Council under the French chairmanship last year without asking those mere 500 million people whom they theoretically represent) then it would be logical also that the staff be recruited according to same system. Staff would then be chosen for party political loyalties and publicly proclaimed bias for national favouritism and exclusivity.
The founding fathers said the opposite: the Commission should exclude national representation and ban loyalty to any partial interest group. The Commission should be impartial in order to reconcile all the various different interests in fairness and justice.
You can’t have coal and steel run by the bosses because such business ‘pals’ (supposedly in competition) create a cartel. They rip off the consumer and exploit workers. You can’t have a Commission run by party ‘pals’ because that creates a political cartel to the detriment of the public.
In general you cannot successfully reconcile the national and the European (that we both need) in a system which encourages power politics, the rule of the strong over the weak. Nor can you reconcile ordinary people in civil society with discredited politicians by excluding non-politicians.
Let’s be frank. Having national Commissioners is merely saying that ‘We don’t trust foreigners’ and ‘We are suprerior to other races.’ It is just another way for all nations to affirm what Herr Hitler said in the interwar period: the master race doctrine. Now everyone thinks they are the Master Race and there will be a dog fight in the Commission, as well as the Council (where they close the doors to avert the public’s eyes from such things) and everwhere. Each nation has its qualities and its deficiencies.
The act of genius of the founders was to improve the deficiencies of one nation by applying the positive example of others. That way we all gain. We have improved standards, competition, the economy and the environment. And the chronic corruption of the early postwar period has been eliminated. Justice and human rights have improved.
Forgetful or ill-educated politicians, who do not know their history, think they know better. The way that is now being imposed by the Council is the WRONG way, a backward step.
The Council’s unilateral proclamation in 2008 also says that there is no concept of justice common to all Europeans and that no impartial people exist in other nations.
What an insult to ordinary citizens! Hitler had his own idea of justice and that was: Whatever pleases the Fuehrer. De Gaulle had a similar view of democractic politics; it was:Whatever pleases de Gaulle, pleases France and therefore pleases Europe. The Council’s doctrine is: Whatever pleases the political parties. This doctrine is another form of corrupt power politics. It overturns the founding principle of the European Community that the European good should be sought by an impartial Commission and decided by the fullest democracy (engaging all State and European institutions) and the fairest justice possible (engaging all tribunals in the States as well as the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Communities).
The Council’s re-emphasis on nationalism is clearly the same slippery slope to anarchy that we have had throughout our European past. It has continually led to conflicts and power politics. It is exactly what the founders, Schuman, Luns, Spaak and others, wanted to avoid at all costs. Why? Because it is dangerous, especially for small States. Do you think the Commissioner/national representative of Malta or Luxemboug will have the same voice as the German, French or British Commissioner?
And what of the Treaty article forbidding governments from influencing a Commissioner? This is violated without sanction at the moment. What will happen in the future? The Council’s doctrine wants to turn the Commission into a kennel full of poodles. What better way to have a dog fight? The biggest, noisiest poodle wins! And to keep them in order, everyone will eat the same party political dog food. Victory for the dog food supplier (who no one is supposed to know about) and no one else!
The purpose of the Community is to avoid power politics, whether national or political. The Commission must be INDEPENDENT of all interest groups in society. Both Commissioners and staff should have EXPERIENCE. That would include being wise enough to see the tricks of interest groups who want to pull the wool over their eyes. Citizens would hope that both Commissioners and civil servants should have some ideas, even courage and conviction, about moral philosophy and honesty. Civic courage should be more highly esteemed.
Should the staff of the Commission be chosen because they are the most technically expert in Europe? Do we need an engineer who can build the most hi-tech, ecological motor car … or is there a wider consideration? What about an expert who says we don’t need cars at all? The purpose and goals of any society must be decided democratically, not bureaucratically.
It is a great danger to insist that European civil servants must be technocratic. They should be competent and experienced, which is not the same thing. Quite often the greatest danger arises in the Council where technical experts — working in cahoots with private firms — impose measures that favours one firm, one national champion, to the detriment of all other competitors. In some States, private firms supply ‘officials’ to ministries and the EU where they have a permanent office! That’s what you get and will continue to get from closed door discussions in the Council.
Recruiting technical experts from industries to the Commission also lays the Commission open to hiring from firms with ulterior, or selfish motives, rather than the common good. Civil servants should be competent and impartial. European staff does not have to be intensely technical because the founding fathers provided the means (not yet in full use) to gather all technical information required for European legislation from the entire population. (This was NOT secret comitology!!!)
Once working properly, the original five institutions (www.schuman.info/supra5.htm) are adequate to provide impartial, independent expertise underpinned by democracy and the rule of law. The only question is the correct implementation. The founding fathers also warned against having active politicians as Commissioners. They should be non-political, in other words, they should resign party membership, before taking office.
Commissioners should best be recruited from the 98 per cent of the population who do not hold party cards. Why? Because it is childishly easy for powerful interest groups to influence political parties, whether financial groups,industrial, trade unions, consumer lobbyists, or hidden cartels.
The Commission is supposed to be the anti-cartel agency for ALL European citizens, an honest broker, not a partisan. A political cartel of 2 or 3 parties is not freedom, nor is it representative.
The Commission should seek out the common European good with the help of all citizens and democratically elected institutions. This is a vital but unappreciated task. They should consult all non-political civil society organizations. But they should not be listening to lobbyists in their own offices.
The founders provided the time and place for lobbyists to lobby. It is in the Economic and Social Committee and the parallel Consultative Committees. They should put decision-makers in contact with vast networks of expertise and experience. Lobbyists in European associations should be confined to the Economic and Social Committee where they were supposed to be in permanent debate with each other. It is more difficult to bamboozle the lobbyists from the opposing lobby than to persuade an official over a fine meal. Iron sharpens iron.
A debate between producers, consumers and workers, as foreseen in the treaties, is the surest way to get to the truth. And when they have come to some agreement, then a dialogue is opened with the Commission. The Council should be in its own PUBLIC debate about about how it affects sovereignty. And Ministers should have already opened a major debate on important issues with all the interest groups at home. Lobbyists of private companies, national unionists or consumer/ecology organizations should not be given the run of European institutions to influence officials in non-transparent ways. National lobbyists should lobby nationally in whatever public arena the law allows. In Europe, the Consultative Committees, the democratic debating chamber in a supranational democracy, should be composed of only such lobbyists who are ‘representatives of organized civil society’.
That’s what the Treaties say, up to the present Nice Treaty. Representatives of European enterprises, consumer organizations and workers groups should debate areas of interest. They are not lobbyists in the ordinary sense but elected associations, empowered by mutual consent and trust. This requires that the institutions start to write the rules for their own elections, as they were charged to do in Europe’s founding treaty. That was decades ago. The legal requirement is still valid and more urgent.
European society is still waiting for action. A proper, fuller debate and review of the Community’s just and fair, foundational principles is vital if citizens are to understand and activate this process.
When are the leaders going to start? Who will be the first to show civic courage?
How then should Commissioners be selected and elected? More to come.David Heilbron Price
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