Monday, April 19, 2004

The European democracy tests

The excellent BykerSink, as so often, hits the button spot on about the confusion most people feel over the subject of the European Union, the Euro and the proposed referendum on the European Constitution. Whilst certain sections of the media portray the European debate as a xenophobic, little Englander, anti-johnny foreigner argument, people may rationalise that because they are opposed to that mentality they must therefore adopt a pro stance towards these issues.

I certainly have no problems with closer links with other European nations, or the much wider world community come to that. But I do have serious reservations about extending the powers of the EU unless that is accompanied by a democratisation of the EU and its institutions. A couple of years ago someone wrote a rather good article in The Guardian saying something along the lines of "never mind the 5 economic tests for the Euro, what about the five democratic tests for the EU." If I can recall, they were:

The European Parliament should have full democratic powers to introduce legislation. It is the EU's only directly elected body and should be the body which initiates legislation.

The Commission's President should be elected by the parliament. It is a powerful position and should be democratically accountable.

The parliament should appoint the head of the European Central Bank instead of being appointed by "common accord" by the governments of the member states.

The ECB should be transparent in its dealings. It meets in secret and doesn't publish minutes or the voting record of its meetings.

The ECB should work within terms defined by the parliament. Currently the ECB determines its own targets for inflation, and that directs its monetary policy. There is no democratic input, therefore, into one of the major economic factors in the EU.

Given this increased democratisation we would at least be able to determine via a referendum whether we wanted to cede some of our parliament's sovereignty (always supposing, of course, that you think government runs things anyway) to other democratic institutions. Without that democracy, my vote will be no, even if I have to share that vote with some of the most objectionable people possible.