I agree with Jack Straw. EU parliamentary elections should be abolished.
It’s not that we object to democracy, it’s that we object to failed democracy. We object to democracy that continues to exist as a pointless halfway-house absorbing considerable revenue without delivering anything in return.
“The directly elected European parliament should be abolished after failing to achieve its purpose of bridging the divide between the European people and the European Union” is what Jack actually said at the recent IPPR event.
Jon Worth, a regular EU commentator on this website, provides a counter argument, but misses that central point. It’s not just about turnout, Jon; it’s about the failure to achieve that goal of connecting people to the institution.
For people to be inspired to engage in an election, they need to be confronted by two opposing views in a debate. They become intellectually engaged in the choice and this generates discussion at street level, in the pub, or over the water cooler.
But the EU is designed to avoid conflict and move straight to consensus. Every sinew in this post-war institution is stiffened towards avoiding confrontation. The effect of this is that decisions become a fudge, before the electorate are given a chance to be involved.
Look at the example of the recent Lisbon treaty which promised a democratically elected President of the Commission. You’ll remember the glint in Tony Blair’s eye. If Blair had run for President, the whole of Europe would have been fired up, not just in support, but huge swathes of the electorate would have been opposed to elevating the proponent of the Iraq war, and they would have looked for an alternative candidate.
It would have been an exciting election, in the true sense, that the issues that matter (whatever they are) would have been raised to the surface and the electorate across the whole of the EU would have become a part of the debate.
Yet Angela Merkel feared the comment made by David Miliband, that President Blair would “stop traffic” on foreign engagements. She ended the candidacy of Blair after pressure from an envious David Cameron, who hated the idea of being in a room with “El President” Blair. So an anonymous Belgian, Herman Van Rompuy, became President of the European Council, working alongside the President of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is currently Denmark.
In reality, all of these three Presidents of Europe are over-ruled by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, because that’s where the real power lies, in this complex pseudo democracy.
It’s not that Jack Straw is arguing against democracy. We all want more democracy, but democracy that has a point, rather than democracy that exits as a throwaway vote.
If someone calculated the amount of man hours wasted in these huge debating chambers, when decisions could far more efficiently be made in committee, we’d probably be talking about 100s of millions of Euros each year. Money which could be better spent developing the economies of the central European states, in order that we also prosper, by their success.
78% of British people believe their voice does not count in Europe. After 30 years of trying to answer that central question of “How do we end the democratic deficit?” the time has come to accept there isn’t an answer. We need to simply accept that it hasn’t worked and won’t work.
We need an EU. We need the institutions of the EU. We need to appreciate the work that the EU does. But as long as that work is seen through the prism of pointless expensive elections and pointless expensive debating chambers, the people of Europe will continue to have scorn for the European Union, rather than appreciate it as the institution that ended war, stabilised the eastern-bloc, and created the single market.