The EU’s democratic deficit.

Some notes based on the ERS’ document, “Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit”. They have 12 proposals, seven of which suggest actions for the UK Parliament, two for political parties (other than Labour) and one each for the Council, Commission and Parliament. So not so much an EU deficit, more a UK paying attention problem. Mind you, they could pay more attention to what HMG is doing too. I read it once, and made some diigo notes, which I reproduce below/overleaf. …

12 recommendations

National Parliaments

  • The adoption of ‘green cards’ should be a long-term priority. Red cards should also be adopted, though for the time being the Commission should create an informal agreement to treat a certain number of reasoned opinions as a de facto red card. Increase the amount of time for a reasoned opinion to be issued to 12 weeks
  • The UK Parliament should be able to scrutinise the Government’s negotiating position before European Council meetings as well as after
  • The UK Parliament should ‘mainstream’ European policies by sending European legislation to the appropriate committee depending on the policy area
  • The Speaker should organise a conference on strengthening Parliament’s role in European democracy, with a view to taking proposals forward to a pan-European conference of parliaments
  • Give devolved parliaments and assemblies the ability to hold UK ministers to account on pressing issues at EU negotiations, and devolved ministers the right to participate in Council meetings as appropriate
  • Parliament and the Government should put in place mechanisms for giving citizens a direct say in the shaping of European legislation

The European Parliament

  • The periodic decampment of the European Parliament to Strasbourg should end
  • The introduction of a candidate-centred, proportional system should be adopted for UK elections to the European Parliament. We prefer the Single Transferable Vote, but an open-list system is an improvement on the current closed-list system

The European Commission

  • The European Council should under no circumstances over-rule the ‘candidate model’ of electing a Commission president for the 2014 election, but should negotiate with European political parties on a clearer set of rules for future elections
  • In the long term the Commission should shrink in size. In the short term the next Commission should aim to divide Commissioners into ‘seniors’ and ‘juniors’

Political parties

  • Political parties should seek to improve gender representation in the EP by increasing the number of female candidates they put forward for election
  • Parties should attempt to recruit candidates with a wider range views on Europe. EU policy affects agriculture, trade and almost every other area of British public life, and this should be emphasised when recruiting candidates

My comments and notes

  1. Their comments and quotes about the Commission being too large, reinforces the argument that over-large assemblies meddle too much.
  2. The report states that, in the UK, 74% of respondents felt their voice doesn’t count in the EU, I ask since they don’t, “But did they think that about Westminster?”
  3. A quoted YouGov poll found that 95% of the British public could not name one of their MEPs, A result echoed by Countdown, when they asked none of their jury named Dan Hannan or Nick Griffin, the only MEPs named were Nigel Farage, and Claude Moraes.
  4. Academic comparisons of turnout rates have shown that turnouts tend to be lower in countries with closed lists (See for example, ‘Why bother? Determinants of turnout in the European elections’ by Mattila, Mikko, Electoral Studies Volume 22 2003 Pages 449–468). An analysis by Simon Hix and Sara Hagemann in 2009 found that in countries that used open-list systems, citizens were 20% more likely to be contacted by candidates or parties than citizens in member states who used closed-list systems.
  5. The comment that the UK European constituencies were about the right size to transfer to a open list or STV system to increase candidate accountability, but fail to note that NI had been using STV since PR was introduced.
  6. Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform: “There has always been some ambiguity over the Commission’s various and contradictory roles: it is a political body that initiates legislation and also brokers compromises among the member states; a technical body that evaluates the performance of the member states’ economies; a quasi-judicial authority that polices markets and enforces rules; and a negotiator of common policies on behalf of the member states.”
  7. The examine the way in which President of the Commission is appointed and argue that direct election of the Commission Presidency is not the way to go.
  8. They argue that, A Westminster-style parliament with strong executive control is clearly going to be more easily cowed by the executive on European and other issues. I say, Prescient!
  9. Since 2006 the European Commission has been sending all national parliaments all legislative proposals. The Lisbon Treaty creates a new role for national parliaments as guarantors of the concept of subsidiarity. Legislation is now sent to national parliaments at the same time as it is sent to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Any national parliament may then give a ‘reasoned opinion’ – ie an expression of disapproval – if it considers that the proposal violates the principle of subsidiarity.
    Strong collaboration between parliaments is therefore vital for the yellow card system to become a powerful, deliberative and constructive addition to EU decision-making processes.
  10. ‘Demoicracy’ explicitly recognises that the EU lacks a coherent, unified ‘people’, and should therefore encourage the participation of separate ‘peoples’ within the European structure. As a result of this, I say, Perhaps we should study the democracy of successful multi-ethnic and/or large states and look at our own devolutuon settlelmens, Think we’ll find the EU will have to find a way and both Germany & France will for different reasons be blockers on this. France because of its commitment to republican citizenship and Germany because it is still trying to reunify itself and is not adopting a cantonal model.

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