Friday, November 13, 2009

Lisbon and Those Democratic Provisions

The EU Observer makes a big thing about one of the supposed democratic initiatives in the Lisbon Treaty, while at the same time explaining how such freedom must be greatly constrained in case we get carried away by the sheer joy of it.

Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty, in the section grandly entitled 'Provision on the Principles of Democracy, says the following: In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.

This has, of course, nothing whatever to do with democracy, so it's not a good start. The unfortunate people of the late Soviet Empire were not only promised, but probably actually received, equal attention from the agencies that were busy destroying their lives, simply because as far as their leaders were concerned, they were all equal. None of them mattered. The next sub-section is ominous as well:

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.
Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

1. The Union is clearly founded on the principle of sharing the power among unaccountable bureaucrats and friends of friends, regardless of the public good or the public will, and grafting on a few elections and referenda here and there, the results of which can be freely ignored.
2. MEP's are not directly elected by the public, nor do they represent them.
3. There is next to no meaningful democratic life to take part in.
4. Political parties are private organizations of free people and as such will do as they damn well please. To attempt to define and control the role of political parties is highly totalitarian.

An important point about this and many other articles in the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty is how it makes perfectly clear that there are two types of people in the EU, the rulers and the ruled. Any real democracy at least pretends that the leaders have been temporarily and conditionally given authority by their fellows in order to perform certain necessary functions. The EU makes no such pretence.

Consider point 3 a little further, and then look at Article 8b:

1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.
2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.
The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 21 [actually Article 24] of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Civil society doesn't mean you. Don't imagine it does. It means groups specially created or allowed to exist by our leaders, and paid by them with our money to lobby them, the purpose being to justify what they have already decided to do. You are merely a citizen. You don't count. Point 4 appears to introduce a mechanism for any of us to initiate legislation, but this is of course quite the opposite, being in fact an excuse to ignore us even more thoroughly than they do now. As the article gleefully makes clear, there will be so many problems with verification and uncertainty about the number of signatories from each country that any such petition can easily be rejected by an apparatchik long before it is in danger of sullying the exalted hands of a commissioner. Even if you manage to find a million people in a dozen countries who will not only sign to say they agree with but will give you vast amounts of personal data to support verification. Even if you can couche your intention in such a way that it appears to be required for the purpose of implementing the treaties. Even if you get past the army of paperpushers looking for a flaw in the presented paperwork. Even if you manage to reach the stage where the Commission can no longer avoid taking a look you will have achieved precisely nothing. Six months later you will become the proud possessor of a letter with a laser-printed fascimile signature telling you that the Commission doesn't feel your legislative initiative is appropriate and that, due to the nuisance clause in the standing orders they will not consider any proposal on a similar subject for at least 15 years.

No one is going to go through all that for nothing. Except for one reason- publicity. The press would certainly become interested but they are also easily nobbled by the powerful, and you might find yourself the victim of a mob rather than a popular hero. On the whole I think we can say that the provision is yet another of those decoys the EU likes to create, something to point to when there fundamental lack of democracy is pointed out.

There was a time when you went to see your MP, or wrote to him, repeatedly if necessary, and he would ask a question in the House or take the matter up somewhere, or you wrote to the relevant minister, and encouraged others to do the same and if enough people showed enough interest something might be set in motion. There was a time when the people's represenatives represented them- however imperfectly- but they understood that was their job. There was a time when legislation could be enacted by the will of the people, brought before Parliament by their elected representatives, with no need for mechanisms and constraints to be set out at length in endlessly interreferential protocols.

The provision is of such bureaucratic complexity that it is clearly designed to be impossible to fulfil, and thus those who rule us without our consent can remove themselves even more completely from the foulness and impurity of the world which we mere citizens must inhabit.

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