End of Europe’s entire political civilization? It’s coming soon if Britain leaves the EU. So says Mr Tusk, the President of the European Council. That’s what he told the German newspaper Bild.
What a pessimistic, black forecast! All the more astounding when Europe could be on the brink of its greatest Golden Age in its history! What would it take? Just some honesty in respecting letter and spirit of Europe’s founding Treaties that brought Europe’s long peace! An Exit catastrophe is a self-inflicted political wound. Politicians might learn from a few catastrophes! They might retrace the true principles of Democracy that Robert Schuman and the founding fathers enunciated in the Community Method and the Great Charter of the Community ! Real democratic cohesion among 28 democracies would make it the driving force of the world!
“As a historian,’ Mr Tusk told the German newspaper Bild, ‘I fear Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also Western political civilisation in its entirety.”
Brexit vote would provide a major boost to radical anti-European forces who he said would be “drinking champagne”.
Why is it so dangerous? “Because,” says Mr Tusk, “no one can foresee what the long-term consequences would be.” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker too is expecting a “catastrophe” if Britain leaves.
Maybe it is a warning that the end of Machiavellian, neo-Gaullist politics is in sight! Huzzah! Politicians try all the roads and leave the only honest one till last! Failure and Catastrophe is staring at them like a hungry lion! What are these leaders facing?
Multiple EXIT referendums. GREXIT, now BREXIT and in fact EUREXIT. A cascade of EXITs are on the horizon, regardless of what UK voters decide. It’s not just UK’s UK Independence party and a large faction of its Conservative party. France’s National Front, Germany’s Alternative and Italy’s Five Star parties all want a new deal with Brussels. And all the others too. They want OUT.
Now isn’t that a little extraordinary. The European Union is supposedly a union of 28 Democracies. But no one wants the Brussels Politburo version of Democracy.
You don’t need a doctor to tell you:
‘Brussels is sick!’
If all the alternative parties formed a network it would be them not the EPP (Christian Democrats) and Socialist cartel that would be running Brussels. It would be a ‘Get me out of here!’ coalition. A democratic vote would put a colourful array of parties in control. All they had in common would be:
‘We don’t like the carve-up of political powers illegally run by the Politburo in Brussels. We don’t like political cartels! We don’t want rule by Decree! We want open government! We want a free market of ideas! We want Freedom!’
So what is the EU Politburo doing about the multiple coming crises? Has it fired up the press about the key democratic reforms it is introducing? Has the Brussels political class even identified the key failures of democracy?
- a crazy, democracy-destroying currency, the euro, without the democratic safeguards that Schuman and the Founding Fathers warned were essential,
- a dictatorial policy that encouraged bombing in Syria and Libya (one government went to war without a government in place!)
- that now expects the European people having ignored the deaths, rape and enslavement of Christians, to accept millions of refugees, some potential, others committed Islamists and terrorists,
- a governmental system that no one can sack,
- a politburo that turned the most perfect concepts of European Democracy outlined by Robert Schuman upside down and made the Soviet-style People’s Democracies look good by comparison.
What did Schuman say about closed door Councils of Ministers?
“The New Europe must have democratic foundations. The Councils, the Committees and the other organs must be under active supervision of public opinion.” (Pour l’Europe, p145.)
Has the Council responded to the urgent public call for transparency? Has it set as a priority open sessions to ensure impartiality and to rebuild trust with the public? Time is short. Urgent action is needed, not only in Old England but across the Continent where anti-Brussels movements are filling the streets with thousands upon thousands of protesters.
Have these catastrophic dangers set Brussels ablaze with a new zeal for democratic reform?
A few days ago I attended a Council of Ministers press conference. The press room was empty. I was the only journalist there. Not for the first time.
Was it an important Council? You judge.
The Ministers dealt with:
- the Internal Market (a point of controversy in the UK referendum debate)
- Industrial policy, the digital Single Market strategy
- Quantum technology, high performance computing
- Better Regulations to strengthen competitiveness
- Product Safety and market surveillance
- the Posting of workers Directive,
- Space policy
- Boosting of mobile broadband services.
The event summarized the work of two Council of Ministers meetings.
If you had seen any footage of the press conference, you might have been aware that besides me asking a question, there were quite a number of smartly dressed men and women present. Were they journalists? Not at all. The loudspeaker system had asked for officials to come into the press room so that the ministers and Commissioners would not be embarrassed. The Council cameraman could then show that the press room was not empty. I was thanked for asking a question. Guess why!
Phantom democracy! This sort of facade is the Public Relations equivalent of the Potemkin village. It is a farce, a veneer. It is what Schuman denounced as counterfeit democracy! A poor effort to show that the public is interested in the “Brussels Democracy”. A similar sort of lethargy enveloped the Soviet bloc’s “democracies” but that could be stirred up by Communist party rallies and intimidation.
In Brussels it only emphasizes the rancid smell of decay and distrust that surround the circus of 50-odd politicians deciding behind closed doors the future of 500 million citizens.
Why this distrust? Why the lack of public confidence?
Any one curious to find the reason has only to turn to the Treaties — the compact made between politicians and the public.
Lisbon Treaty, TEU Article 16: The Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act.
Lisbon Treaty, TFEU: Article 15: The European Parliament shall meet in public, AS SHALL THE COUNCIL when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.
Why isn’t the Council open and public like the European Parliament and the Consultative Committees?
That in fact was the essence of my question to the Commissioners and Minister. The Councils refuse to hold public meetings. As a sop to their legal obligations, the Council has started streaming minor aspects of some Council meetings. Instead of informing the public, they video-stream a few minutes, here and there, when Ministers vote. Sometimes they add some other boring bits, especially those the public is less interested in. Who would want to have the privilege of listening to on-off snippets when the ministers vote. But not much else.
Politicians want to keep matters secret and non-controversial.
And they are right. Hardly anyone views these snippets except the bureaucrats. Who besides eurocrats watches them? No one really knows. The only statistics seems to relate to the Luxembourg presidency of 2015.
One of the most important Councils is ECOFIN, on Economic and Financial Affairs. It deals with the euro and the potential collapse of the euro and economics of Greece and the EU. How many people wanted to view the Council’s snippets, do you think?
The average was 252 live viewers. (That figure probably includes the civil servants in Brussels and around the EU). A similar number viewed the recorded version. Of the five EcoFin Councils, one two-day meeting on13/14 November, amassed only 54 viewers.
The average time of live-streaming of the Councils, formal and informal, is less than an hour per Council. Thus the public has no idea of what is being decided in their names, behind closed doors. Would anyone except a civil servant want to watch a movie which kept being switched on and off while the screen must be activated all the time? Would you sit patiently for a few minutes to see a voting exercise while a one or two day Council was being held?
This excessive “video exposure” was clearly traumatic for secretive ministers. That is why governments invented the European Council. There they can talk about anything — whether home insulation or global energy policy — without the slightest whisper of what they discuss leaking to the public. Video live-streaming is totally forbidden for European Councils of the Heads of Governments.
Secrecy in government is one of the surest ways to destroy the TRUST of the public. Another most effective democracy-destroyer is for politicians to insist on a treaty that several Member States have rejected in referendums. The Constitutional Treaty was rejected by the Netherlands and France. Six other States were due to hold referendums from the Czechs, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal to the United Kingdom. Brussels cancelled these referendums! It also told Sweden to forget about discussing it in Parliament.
So what was the Brussels Politburo’s solution? They passed the same rejected text, now called the Lisbon Treaty, without letting the people have a referendum. That is a major affront to Democracy that it will be hard for the Brussels Politburo ever to live down!
The political class in each country forced through a ratification without in some cases even letting parliamentarians read it. Only Ireland insisted on a referendum. It rejected it in 2008. They were told to vote again. Under great economic and political pressure they voted again in 2009.
This is exactly the opposite from the principles of the Great Charter of the Community that Europe’s Statesmen signed on 18 April 1951. This said that only measures adopted by the free will of the people could be acceptable in Law.
Almost every conceivable aspect of the democratic action of Schuman’s five supranational institutions that define a Community, have been corrupted by the political class.
What was introduced as the most perfect democratic system is still suffering from neo-Gaullists of the little tin-pot dictators.
How should a democracy work? Its major principles involve free discussion and assent on the goals to be achieved and the means to achieve them. That’s how Schuman defined the process. He added one further element. Both the goals and the means to achieve them should be clearly agreed as involving the service of the people.
In 1972 I sat in the Press Gallery watching as the UK’s Parliament debated and passed a Bill of Parliament to join the three European Communities. Both chambers, the Commons and the Lords, were required to decide after multiple, open debates. Brexit or similar action in other States will require a further Act passed by Parliament. The Courts also have to advise that there is no legal impediment. The Sovereign has to give Assent to the Bill to make it an Act. Only then can the British Prime Minister, if necessary, write a letter withdrawing the UK from the European Union. Complications and legal objections are many. The membership of Euratom governed by Brussels institutions remains to be resolved as a separate issue.
The Brussels Council of Ministers should learn that it is not the sole institution of Europeans. Nor can it rule 28 democracies and 500 million people by secret decree.
David Heilbron Price