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Friday, November 20, 2009

A European farce

I consider myself to be fairly pro-European. I have argued that the Lisbon Treaty did not require a confirmatory referendum, in fact calls for such plebiscites seem to be becoming far too common in what is still a representative democracy, being used to resolve party differences rather than give people a genuine choice.

I can also see that there is a case for a permanent President of the European Council and a High Commissioner and support the creation of those posts, but the method of appointment and the way that this has been carved up behind closed doors does give me pause for thought.

Personally, I believe that the 27 members of the European Community have done their cause no favours by the events of the last 24 hours. It is not that the eventual appointees are unknown to the vast majority of the UK and European electorate and in one case has never held elected office, but that the collective heads of state have shown the whole process up to be secretive, undemocratic and exclusive.

None of the candidates were required to publish a manifesto or to make their case to the public at hustings or otherwise. Indeed it seems that one of them did not even realise she was a candidate until the last minute. Whilst the fact that there is no ratification process in the democratically-elected European Parliament underlines what a farce this process was.

Being pro-European should mean that we can be critical friends. When these posts next become vacant we need to have more transparency and accountability. Perhaps the appointment should be made by the European Parliament itself. At the very least MEPs should be given the chance to scrutinise the candidates, question the final appointee and vote to ratify them or otherwise. If that does not happen then what is the point of having MEPs in the first place?
Reasonable point about the secrecy of the process BUT you have made one factual mistake and on one point I disagree with you.

The factual mistake is the statement that neither of them will be subject to a ratification vote or hearings in the European Parliament. Baroness Ashton will as she also becomes a Vice President of the Commission. There will be confirmation hearings and a vote.

The point where I think you are unfair is in describing them as unknown. Does this mean that no-one can be appointed as First Minister of Wales because people not involved in the Welsh Assembly don't know who they are? Van Rompuy is Prime Minister of Belgium and to think that you get that post if you are a complete non-entity is incredibly patronising towards the Belgians!
A fair point. I have amended the text to make it clear that they are unknown to the vast majority of the UK electorate though I hope I am clear that this should not be an obstacle and I am certainly not patronising the Belgians.

The President himself will not be ratified by the Parliament of course and that is a major oversight. The First Minister of Wales of course is elected to the Assembly and will have fought an election as the leader of his or her party.
Well said Peter.
My personal feelings are that:

A candidate should be nominated by each of the groupings in the European Parliament.
An election should be held in each of the 27 member nations.
The votes polled for each candidate are calculated as a % vote. This % vote is then divided by the number of MEP's in that country.
When all the votes are counted and the number of MEP's allocated, the winner is the person with the most MEP's pledged to that candidate.
Of course the process is a farce. The member state governments designed it that way. It's their President - not of the whole EU as ignorant British media say repeatedly. The Council of Ministers picked him in the usual way, like they always have under both Labour and Tories, so why are they fussing now?

The Lisbon Treaty lays down that, unlike Commissioners, neither the Council president nor the 'foreign minister' need parliamentary approval. But maybe the latter does as vice-president of the Commission. I prefer direct election by all citizens. Can you imagine the British nationalists allowing that?

Jill Evans MEP has suggested that the new UK commissioner is questioned by the National Assembly (as well as its Scottish and Northern Ireland counterparts). As Lady Ashton will be the UK's commissioner - I presume - at least AMs should grill her before formal appointment. Go for it!
At least Tory Blair didn't end up President, likewise Boris Johnson!
The President of the USA is chosen by an electoral college of around 600 people following an extensive election campaign in which 200 million people are entitled to vote and in which over 100 million actually do vote.

The President of the EU is chosen by 27 people in 3 hours over dinner. (In a serious constitutional crisis, the process might be extended to breakfast.)

Is it any wonder that the EU is regarded as not just undemocratic but actually anti democratic? Is it any wonder that people feel that a plebiscite is needed if, for no other reason, than to give this aristocratic farce a tiny smidgeon of democratic validity?

Incidentally, I'm not anti European. But the supreme arrogance of this decision, frankly, makes me want to puke!!

Whoever these people are - they're not there in my name!!!!

I've just seen your "don't have the guts to leave their names" point above.

I'm submitting anonymous comments because I'm a public servant who would probably be disciplined (if not sacked) if I commented openly. Blog comments are one of the very few ways in which I can contribute to political debate, on matters about which I feel strongly, without risking the sack!!

I'm sorry that I don't have the "guts" to risk my job and my family's livelihood for the sake of an ephemeral comment on your blog. That doesn't mean that I don't have a valid point of view and it doesn't mean that I don't, in many other ways, have the courage of my convictions.

In the light of this, perhaps you could consider whether your comments about anonymous commentators not having "guts" are entirely fair?

All the best

Anonymous (for a reason)
Perhaps you would care to re-read the sentence and keep it in context.

I have nothing against anonymous comments. That is why I allow them. I accept that there can be good reasons for people to remain anonymous.

However, some people (Trolls) consistently post negative and vindictive remarks without revealing who they are and it is they who the rule is directed at, not you.
The fact is we should have had a vote, or has it become the norm in the EU not to vote for anything they might lose.

These two people have been picked to do a job which will be silent not rocking the boat and the EU plan for the next move.

I was all for the EU but democracy seems a word Blair brown and the EU no longer use
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