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"Who do I call when I want to talk to Europe?" "Who do I call when I want to talk to Europe?"
by Alexandra Pereira
2009-04-18 11:38:57
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The famous inquiry by Kissinger is still a good question today. Why does Obama have to call or visit Barroso, Sarkozy, Brown, Merkel, Berlusconi, etc. when he could call or meet a single person, one directly elected by all Europeans, and representing all Europeans? Why can’t the European parliament hold Commissioners accountable?

Why can’t it, according to the Lisbon Treaty, impeach a future President or a future Foreign Affairs Minister of the Union? And why can’t these be directly elected by the Europeans, instead of chosen by their peers? Europeans, the people, want far more power directly in their hands. Either the union is a representative democratic institution, as it was originally idealized, or it isn’t. 

Eux Blog (1) wrote in the end of January: “We still live in a divided union, ruled not by democratic political visions but by nationalist sentiments, in a system that lacks the proper checks and balances that one would expect in a democracy. That is what makes Europe basically powerless on the world stage. Not the absence of something like the ‘Lisbon Treaty.’

To be fair, the individual 27 countries that together create this European union are real democracies. Each one of them can elect a parliament that can directly hold its government accountable. But that’s where democracy stops. At a European level, there is no more accountability. There is involvement, yes, but that’s a long way short of democratic accountability. European politicians can’t be sent home. (…)

At the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, individual European Commissioners have to report regularly to the European parliament but they can’t be forced to step down when they prove incapable of serving the office they hold. Only the nuclear option exists as an option to the parliament: sacking the entire college of 27 Commissioners. The lack of individual accountability leaves room for the incapable, whose only purpose is to serve a political agenda. (…)

The Council of the European Union Council, the Presidents, Prime Ministers and ministers of the EU member states that shape European policies naturally are accountable only to their national parliaments. And these parliaments have national priorities and national agenda. The national parliaments, naturally, are unlikely to make European interests their first priority (…)

Anyone taking a quick look concludes that simply having a parliament makes Europe a democracy. But those who take a better look will notice that the parliament mostly is the place where the interests of lobbyists are represented; a talking shop for political statements; with very limited powers. (…) Paul van Buitenen, the former commission official who exposed Cresson’s fraud, has been a member of the European Parliament for four years now, repeatedly disclosing new cases of corruption, embezzlement and irregularities at the Commission and the Parliament. But is anyone listening? No.

Many journalists find it difficult to sell EU fraud and corruption stories to their newsroom. European media play a role in this debate as well, but that is an issue to explore at another time. When it comes down to it, the European parliament remains a democratic facade for a European Union ruled by a political elite that is afraid of the people’s voice. Historically, Europe of course has a problem with nationalism. That fear now seems to stand in the way of turning the European union into a real democracy.

That at a time when the concept of nation-states is becoming increasingly seen as old-fashioned. Traditional nation-states have no more roles to play in a globalized world. (…) Europe’s desperate plea for a cease-fire in Gaza, at a time that the United States were essentially headless, demonstrates Europe’s incapacity. (…) Europe needs far more changes if it is to be influential in this internationalized global world of our 21st century. (…) Closing Guantanamo Bay? Some but not all European countries already signaled they are willing to take in some of the prisoners.

More troops to Afghanistan? NATO’s future? Anti-missile radar in the Czech Republic and Poland? Among the 27 member states of the European Union, there simply is no consensus on these thorny issues. The US will have to continue to deal with European divisions. There simply is no European unity. (…) It’s obvious that Europe could do with a saviour.(…)

But even if there would be such a person out there, he, or she, would never be able to become ‘President of Europe’. Because, as planned under the Lisbon Treaty, that’s a job that would be assigned in back-door meetings between the EU’s heads-of-state and heads-of-government. They would choose one of their peers. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is interested. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy would love to succeed him.”

I’m sure that if all Europeans could vote, they would have many doubts in electing one or the other for such position. So why should they be imposed to us? I see no advantage whatsoever in such procedure – on the contrary, it can enhance and fasten Europe’s division. The political elites have to give up from such dictatorial ways of selecting people to important European positions, otherwise they will lose the support of their citizens.

**********

1 Cloggie in www.eux.tv blog, January 2009

Cover photo:  Source: Ford Library


  
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Emanuel Paparella2009-04-17 17:37:06
Kissinger, a former European, had no idea on how to call Europe because to his mind-set Europe was a mere piece in his chess-game of Machiavellian real-politik game based on raw hard power. Unfortunately there are many new Europeans (so called “Newropeans”) who having forgotten the ideas and ideals of the EU founding fathers have the same mind set and therefore they are not out to replace the mind-set but to replace the power... Klaus Held has on target, till a cultural cement is found on which to base a visionary real constitution and till Europeans are happy with a mere treaty to ensure mere prosperity, till the idea of Europe is not perceived and acknowledged (and there was such an idea at one time), the house will have been built on sand and will not long endure.


Alexander Mikhaylov2009-04-17 23:20:50
'That at a time when the concept of nation-states is becoming increasingly seen as old-fashioned. Traditional nation-states have no more roles to play in a globalized world.'
Num. 1: Seen as an old fashioned by whom?
Num:2: Globalized world? In the other words, we are talking about totalitarian empire which must include the whole planet,huh? Interesting... Oh yeah, Let's eradicate all nationalities, all distinctions, all cultures and build the Truly Brave New World, and assign its citizens numbers instead of names, and stuff like that!!!Hurra!!! I can name some people who dream exactly of that.


Alexander Mikhaylov2009-04-17 23:22:39
'Historically, Europe of course has a problem with nationalism.'
No it's somebody else, who has problems with that


Emanuel Paparella2009-04-17 23:53:40
“…by the favor of universal Enlightenment, it might become possible to dream, for the great European family, of going the way of the American Congress…what an outlook then of power, of glory, of well being, of prosperity! What a great and magnificent spectacle!” Those words were uttered by a man who considered himself a proponent of the greater Europe but in reality he was proposing the same stale old paradigm underpinned by Machiavellian power. In this statement while power, prosperity and glory are mentioned, freedom is conspicuously absent. One may be surprised at that till one knows that the man who uttered those words was none other than Napoleon and what he was dreaming by the favor of universal Enlightenment was not the magnificent spectacle of a greater Europe for the great European family but rather the nationalistic spectacle of the greater France. It stood to reason that the greater England (Great Britain) would see such a dream as a nightmare.

Now that we have made Italy let’s make the Italians said one of its principal architects (Benso de Cavour). Shining example of the cart placed before the horse. Is history repeating itself? Now that we have made Europe, let’s make the Europeans? Indeed, those who forget their history are bound to repeat it eventually.


AP2009-04-18 00:52:11
Mr. Mikhaylov:
Num. 1: By the author in Eux Blog, which I quoted and by many other people, including myself. To tell you the truth, I think that nationalism is an extremely primitive form of thought and we're all the same - in terms of human nature.
The author in Eux also wrote that "countries inside EU have too much power, and the the EU parliament has little power" - but I didn't want to quote that so it wouldn't shock you even more.
Num. 2: No Mr. Mikhaylov, a globalized world in not a totalitarian empire - actually, the way I see it a globalized world implies extreme dispersion of power.
Also, to be a nationalist is different from defending the erradicating nationalities - I don't think that would be wise at all. Even less all distinctions and cultures. On the contrary, different races, cultures and nationalities should exist - so they can get mixed :) ahah
Of course nationalisms have always been a problem inside Europe, and associated with the most terrible regimes. Excuse me, but that's a fact.


AP2009-04-18 00:56:20
errata- "the EU"; "is not a"; "the eradication of"
(sorry, I'm working at the same time and was writing in a hurry)


AP2009-04-18 01:00:55
Mr. Paparella, allow me to correct you:
We always had the Europeans, what we didn't make yet is... Europe (as always).


AP2009-04-18 01:07:44
We always had the differences inside Europe, and we always felt part of this continent as a whole, in the sense of facing "being a European" as a core broader identity. What we don't have yet: common institutions which are effective enough and truly representative of our people. I think this is truly a problem.


Emanuel Paparella2009-04-18 03:29:49
You missed the point Ms. Pereira: if the Italian cultural identity was strong enough it would not have been necessary to construct it after the Italian state was established 1n 1861. That such a state was ill suited to nationalism is certainly a plus but to begin with mere political and economic considerations is indeed to put the cart before the horse. Pari passu, the European cultural identity should have been throughgly explored and debated before ending up with the so called Lisbon Treaty, which ignores the most important cultural-spiritual heritages of the continent, the very cement to form a strong cultural union beyond real politik considerations.


Alexander Mikhaylov2009-04-18 03:34:48
Look, I am proud of my nationality and my heritage. That's all I wish to say. I believe I am not original in this respect


AP2009-04-18 20:30:14
So Mr. Paparella, don't tell me: you wanted the Lisbon Treaty to state clearly that it would defend and privilege Christianity inside Europe. Sorry, not smart, not respectful of diversity nor democratic enough. And we already have the Vatican to defend those interests in Europe.
The problem with the Lisbon Treaty and all other attempts before that, but specially with the Lisbon Treaty, is that the political elite didn't give a voice to the understandable concerns of people in every member state, and also they didn't make referendums in all member states, which is not very democratic. Several articles should be changed and negotiations should be done to please all in the end, information about its contents should be accessible to everybody as well. Europeans hate that, they like to have a word to say in their own matters and that's how democracy works anyway!!
On the other hand, EU's politicians are very afraid of the voice of the people they represent (not to say they are terrified) and don't want them to have much power to decide or break an Union which they know and anticipate will be the best to everyone (after inequalities are balanced) and the only way for Europe to be competitive in a modern world. They are afraid of desintegration because of nationalistic waves and hates, which is understandable considering the ghosts of the recent past. But I'm sorry to say, they can not use that fear as an excuse which allows them to do anything they want without having to ask anyone if they agree.
Mr. Mikhaylov, I don't know...
I'm proud of several nationalities and heritages, and I don't think my country or my compatriots are better than any other country or people in the world - as many nationalists do, or pretend they do. Your comparison with Russia does not make much sense, because every member state of EU wanted and made an effort to be part of it, while former USSR was composed by several countries which existed and were invaded and occupied, with annexations by force. That's definitely not the case with EU.
Talking about heritage, greetings from Cordoba, from the Jewish neighbouhood next of the mosque and the Alcazar.


Emanuel Paparella2009-04-18 22:15:14
"So Mr. Paparella, don't tell me: you wanted the Lisbon Treaty to state clearly that it would defend and privilege Christianity inside Europe."

Where do I say that? Nowhere. All I said is that the intellectual spiritual heritage of Europe, whatever it is, should be known, respected and debated before drafting a treaty which is definitely not a constitution based on a vision and common values and is therefore built on sand as Klaus Held reminded us some time ago.

Frankly, to egregiously place words into others' mouth (the words one wishes she/he had said to better rebutt their argument...) is a counterproductive habit ensuring that the truth of an issue will never be found.


Alexander Mikhaylov2009-04-19 00:37:22
To Mrs. Pereira: (if you are still reading this) for your information - USSR does not have anything to do with my heritage - I am half Russian (on my mother's side) and half Austrian (on my father's side). Does it make me half European, or half Russian, or neither, or what? A Russian part of my family history ended in 1917, and the other side... who knows? I wish I knew...


Alexander Mikhaylov2009-04-19 00:45:46
P.S. Sorry, perhaps I still feel too bitter about it all, but I might add (speaking of USSR once again) that I believe in this - former USSR citizens, or present day Rissians, or whatever you might call them, do not represent Russian culture at all. They lost, or destroyed it in 1917... It'll never come back, no matter what contemporary nationalists might say


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