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 The EU Democratic Deficit - Will Lisbon Fix It ?

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PostSubject: Re: The EU Democratic Deficit - Will Lisbon Fix It ?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 12:03 am

Isn't wikipedia mighty all the same, however full of holes it is? If nothing else it's familiar and necessary repetition of the same basic vocabulary.

Quote :
The new Treaty of Lisbon replaces all references to the "procedure referred to in Article 251" with references to the "ordinary legislative procedure"
A 'No' vote on this one and another go at it and before long I'll know a fair bit of this Treaty off by heart... and I'm not even really interested in it What a Face
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PostSubject: Re: The EU Democratic Deficit - Will Lisbon Fix It ?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 12:10 am

I tried to find that diagram again and it wouldn't open: I must have broken it Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: The EU Democratic Deficit - Will Lisbon Fix It ?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 12:04 pm

ibis wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Auditor #9 wrote:
What's this democratic deficit? Is it in relation to the fact that the bigger nations have less clout now than they think they should have or something else? If it is then yes, it fixes it.

If by democratic deficit is meant that currently we enjoy an inferior level of democracy relative to the level our technology allows and that Lisbon will fix that I doubt it sincerely. We should have participative budgets locally by now for God's sake..

Democracy doesn't have to stay parliamentary for the rest of its life but it seems we are being given no other real choice, nor is an alternative even mentioned by our 'Democrats'.

The problem with the EU is it has grown incrementally and doesn’t have democratic structure. That was annoying, but less important when it was primarily a trade treaty and then a set of intergovernmental actions. Now its is proposed to be a federal state with residual powers at national level, it is much much more important that it should have a democratic structure in which every vote has the possibility of counting towards which policy will be carried out, as it does in democratic systems at National level.

The way I have heard it put is that the EU started as a purely economic and intergovernmental organisation, with limited powers, and no democratic input. There was no Parliament, no direct election into the EU at all, any more than there is into the UN. When the Parliament was first created, it genuinely was purely a talking shop, without even consultative powers. As its powers have increased, it has also grown more democratic. Perhaps not fast enough, but the two processes go along side by side.

cactus flower wrote:
The MEPs we vote for are really only a consultative body and can't determine the development of the EU as an entity. They ultimately have to pass the legislation that the Council and Commission puts together.

As you say, they have to pass the legislation. That means they are certainly not "really only a consultative body". They can propose amendments to legislation, and send legislation back. A piece of legislation that falls under co-decision, and which does not pass parliament, does not become legislation. They also have oversight on certain aspects of the EU budget, can vote out the Commission through a no confidence motion, and also vote in the Commissioners in the first place.

Lisbon makes co-decision applicable to virtually all areas, and also makes Parliamentary scrutiny of the budget virtually complete.

In that respect it is hard to tell the difference between the
Parliament and the Dail, with the exception, perhaps, of Private
Members' Bills - which almost never get passed. The Cabinet/Commission
propose legislation, and the Upper House (Council) and Lower House (Parliament) have to pass it. The Commission are liable to the scrutiny and censure of the Parliament.

cactus flower wrote:
The Commission is a group of non-elected people (some of them are appointed after losing elections) and the Council, which is made up of heads of government, nominates the Commissioners in association with the head of the Commission.

And they are then accepted or refused by the elected Parliament.

cactus flower wrote:
The Council members don't refer back to National governments about new legislation before they put it through.

I'm fairly certain they do so, informally (consider the Water Framework Directive, for example, where the Irish government was given several chances to request an exemption for schools before the Directive was passed). Under Lisbon, all new legislation will have to be notified to the national parliaments, who can object, and send it back for amendment.

Naturally, that ability is dismissed as window dressing, but that seems to imply that it's some kind of 'once off consultation'. The parliaments can keep refusing a piece of legislation if it is unsatisfactory. If a third of parliaments object to proposed legislation, the Commission will have to change the legislation. If they don't, that legislation will keep coming back until it becomes satisfactory - although I suspect an informal rule like "two strikes" will come into being.

cactus flower wrote:
Legislation and policy is heavily influenced by mainly Brussels-based expert groups and lobbies and is a closed and often happens in a quirky and informal process. The whole thing is virtually citizen proof, and there is no way that Lisbon is going to change that.

Hmm. That is true of every government process - and the EU at least is attempting to enforce a lobbyists' register, which is something our government has never even suggested.

cactus flower wrote:
The arrogance in tone of the EU speaks volumes for how well protected from public back-lash the participants feel. I don't believe that the status quo in Europe is capable of self reform. imho it will take a lot of pushing and shoving from below to do anything about it.

While I agree that EU fonctionnaires are liable to arrogance, that besets every bureaucracy, and the smaller it is, the worse. The Indian Civil Service were known colloquailly as the "heaven-born", which gives you some idea of how highly they regarded themselves.

However, I think the EU actually has a pretty good track record in making the EU more participative and democratic in tandem with its increasing powers.

The EU itself would like to have more democratic legitimacy. It is the member state governments who are the brake there - only up to a point, because they are aware that the EU must have some democratic legitimacy - but nevertheless, the member state governments aren't interested in their citizens working out that they can talk directly to the EU 'over their heads'. Better to keep the EU perpetually balanced on a cusp, slightly lacking legitimacy so that it acts as a handy scapegoat, while not being so illegitimate that it becomes useless.

Frankly, I think they have slightly messed up the balance in this particular Treaty - the increase in co-decision and budget oversight would make the directly elected EU Parliament much more powerful with respect to the Commission and Council than ever before. In the long run, that has always turned out to be an enormously important shift.

Between that shift, and the referral powers of the national parliaments, I think Lisbon offers a genuine quantum leap in EU democracy - both within the EU institutions, and through their connections to the national level.

Sorry Ibis - I missed this post when you originally made it. Busy day today but I will look at it properly tonight.
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