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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
European Union: A Necessary Mess, In Need of Reform 
20th-Feb-2009 09:57 pm
Inspiration
That's the quick summary of this speech by Havel, which was not politely received by the European Parliament (a body which doesn't care if it insults heads of state is an interesting choice to speak at, but I applaud Havel's courage).

Interesting quote:


The present decision making system of the European Union is different from a classic parliamentary democracy, tested and proven by history. In a normal parliamentary system, part of the MPs support the government and part support the opposition. In the European parliament, this arrangement has been missing. Here, only one single alternative is being promoted and those who dare thinking about a different option are labelled as enemies of the European integration. Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition. It was through this experience that we learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom. That is why political alternatives must exist.

And not only that. The relationship between a citizen of one or another member state and a representative of the Union is not a standard relationship between a voter and a politician, representing him or her. There is also a great distance (not only in a geographical sense) between citizens and Union representatives, which is much greater than it is the case inside the member countries. This distance is often described as the democratic deficit, the loss of democratic accountability, the decision making of the unelected – but selected – ones, as bureaucratisation of decision making etc. The proposals to change the current state of affairs – included in the rejected European Constitution or in the not much different Lisbon Treaty – would make this defect even worse.

Since there is no European demos – and no European nation – this defect cannot be solved by strengthening the role of the European parliament either. This would, on the contrary, make the problem worse and lead to an even greater alienation between the citizens of the European countries and Union institutions. The solution will be neither to add fuel to the “melting pot” of the present type of European integration, nor to suppress the role of member states in the name of a new multicultural and multinational European civil society. These are attempts that have failed every time in the past, because they did not reflect the spontaneous historical development.

I fear that the attempts to speed up and deepen integration and to move decisions about the lives of the citizens of the member countries up to the European level can have effects that will endanger all the positive things achieved in Europe in the last half a century. Let us not underestimate the fears of the citizens of many member countries, who are afraid, that their problems are again decided elsewhere and without them, and that their ability to influence these decisions is very limited. So far, the European Union has been successful, partly thanks to the fact that the vote of each member country had the same weight and thus could not be ignored. Let us not allow a situation where the citizens of member countries would live their lives with a resigned feeling that the EU project is not their own; that it is developing differently than they would wish, that they are only forced to accept it. We would very easily and very soon slip back to the times that we hoped belonged to history.


Read the whole thing. Rather important to the project of Europe.
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