The challenge to Europe and its Democracy

We are more aware today of the need for change within the EU than any time during the last ten years. Since 2010 the Euro Group, which is made up of European Finance Ministers, has successfully sidelined the elected European Parliament. In effect the Euro group operates outside of the Treaties and is no longer accountable to either National or European Parliaments.
The Euro Group now controls all economic policy, the supervision of private banks the rescue packages given to failing states, like Greece, and policy on Austerity.


“Who (then) scrutinizes the executive operations of the institutions making up the Troika? Who monitors the decisions taken within the European Council of the Heads of State or Government of the Euro Area? Who knows exactly what is negotiated within the two core committees of the Euro Group, i.e. the Economic Policy Committee and the Economic and Financial Committee?… the many criticisms voiced against that Euro Area government seem well deserved, starting with Jürgen Habermas‘ denunciation of a “post-democratic autocracy”. (1)
Because of the deliberate but structurally undemocratic fault lines’ existence, as Guillaume Sacriste (2) says, “It favours a significant lack of responsiveness to the very pointed signals sent by national electoral processes, which persistently feature the rise of far right populism. There is, therefore, an urgent need to upgrade democratic values and place representative politics at the core of European economic policies. It is high time to get rid of the opacity and lack of political accountability which have so far characterised this new European power by inserting a democratically elected institution at its heart. Only a Parliamentary Assembly would indeed have the sufficient legitimacy to hold this Euro Area government politically accountable.”
The citizens of Europe are aware that the unchallenged neoliberal policies being pursued by the Eurogroup are not working for them and their elected representatives seem incapable of controlling the unregulated spread of global neoliberal policies. If the positive noises coming from MEPs in speeches within Parliament are to mean anything they need to take back overall control giving elected members of Parliament democratic oversight of the workings of its institutions.
1. Antoine Vüauchez is Research Professor at Universite Paris 1-Sorbonne.
Jürgen Habermas’ denunciation of a “post-democratic autocracy”
www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/10/jurgen-habermas-europe-post- democratic
2. Guillaume Sacriste is a Researcher at the Centre de Recherche Publique at the Sorbonne.

The quotes are from https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/04/treaty-democratizing-euro- area-governance-t-dem/

Comments

  1. Sean Danaher -

    This is a guest piece from Geoff Plant. I have asked Geoff to keep an eye on Progressive Pulse today and hopefully respond to comments.

  2. Simon Cohen -

    These are all good points and the main reasons I abstained in the referendum whilst sympathising with Lexit (the left case for Leave). let’s be clear what has happened:
    1) Three million outside health care in Greece
    2) 48% Greek youth unemployment
    3) Drugs and HIV programs cancelled
    4) 41% Youth unemployment in Spain and a housing crisis based significantly on Germany investing its surplus in Spanish land and housing.
    5) Mass emigration from Latvia
    6) mass emigration from Ireland only now reversing and the EU claiming it as a ‘poster boy’ for austerity ‘success.’
    7) The Hartz reforms in Germany from 2003 that created a Job Centre sanctions regime and ‘internal devaluation’ to increase competitiveness (wage cuts, greater job insecurity)
    8) High suicide levels of french Farmers largely due to cheaper imports from the eastern countries in the EU.

    The list could go on! lets get it clear: The EU is a fermentation plant for fascism at present and the people at the top ( Junker, Diejselbloem etc) are utterly oblivious to this. Already, in France, many are saying that Macron will be the preparation for the Le Pen victory next time.

    Sleepwalking anyone. The Left needs to pluck its head out of the cave of its posterior on this issue and see daylight.

    1. Geoff -

      Indeed there’s much to do. Greece was and is a catastrophe, a blatant use of power wielded by the financial institutions and the Eurogroup to crush democracy in a member state. However,, I, like many, remain a supporter of the project. I think Brexit could be a disaster for the UK but it has had an effect on waking up younger voters, especially the better educated ones, in France and Europe as a whole, 30% voted for Melenchon, he also won two rural areas heavily dependent on farming in the South. We know only to well the likes of Le Pen and Farage have been winning the argument on how immigration is presented, it’s interesting though that figures show little or no change in the numbers – since 1975 France has been fairly static at 3.89% in 1975 only rising to 4.93% of population in 2005 so it’s the perception that needs changing along with the left challenging the established ideology of neo-liberalism and producing better alternatives.

  3. Peter May -

    I much agree- we’re back to Michael Hudson’s idea that if the government doesn’t create money it should stand down and then we’d have direct government from the financiers. But from this it looks as tho’ the Eurozone has already done it!

    Even Macron is already on record theat the EU isn’t as democratic as it should be and needs reform. But what the reforms are he doesn’t specify and I’d have more confidence if he had not become a millionaire after working at Rothschild’s Bank.

    In my view the EU bureaucrats has also missed a trick by not responding to Brexit by proposing increases in EU democratic control. That might show willing to the significant numbers of French – and even some Germans who are anti the EU or at least the way it works.

    Perhaps there is just too much panic that the richer countries will have to contribute more, though goodness knows Germany at least can easily afford it.

  4. Sean Danaher -

    Simon,
    I’m guessing you are the same Simon I interacted with on Richard Murphy’s blog? I can understand completely why you abstained in the Brexit referendum. And I totally respect the decision as I know it was made with much soul searching. On balance though I agree with Geoff and voted “Remain” but my reasoning was that the UK would move very far to the right if the Brexit vote went leave. I can’t help but feel that most of my worst fears have been justified. Things are not looking good for the UK but hopefully it is sabre rattling and some compromise will be agreed.

    1. Simon Cohen -

      Hi Sean -indeed I am the same Simon, I was a sort of ‘Lexit’ voice on Richard’s blog. I think the move to the Right is happening and will happen in France as well. I don’t think the EU is a bulwark against this and, as you know, is even fostering it with the austerity obsession. The UK is a complete rentier basket -case now, with an elite siphoning wealth from everywhere and leaving the broad populace a dried out husk -I fear for my son’s future, the care my aged mother might well not rceive and I fear for myself in socila housing as the rentiers come for me next.

      Great blog Sean -well done for setting it up! Every voice out there helps.

  5. Mark Crown -

    I heartily wish to associate myself with these concerns about the Euro Group (I used to think that it was the ECB itself that was the problem although there is a link).

    How an earth a supposedly democratic institution such as the EU allows an important segment of its operation to meet ‘in camera’ is beyond me to be honest and totally undemocratic. But is it a surprise given that many European member states have let neo-liberalism inculcate their own domestic governments?

    In this view I am guided by Wolfgang Streeck’s latest book ‘How Will Capitalism End?’ – not an easy read by any means but one that gets to the heart of the problem for me (for example his labelling of the EU as a ‘debt consolidation state’).

    If we are to deal with the Euro Group’s neo-liberal love of austerity, then the battle must start at home. It is only less supine domestic governments/member states that will bring about the democratic correction of the workings of the Euro Group in my view. A grass roots repudiation of austerity and neo-liberal dogma is what is needed.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Possibly the June Book of the Month?

    2. Geoff -

      Sorry about the omission on the ECB. As I understand it MEP Fabio De Masi and Yanis Varoufakis are looking to possibly mount a legal challenge under the freedom of information act.

      ECB president Mario Draghi, has so far refused to place the two legal opinions commissioned by the bank, in 2015, as to whether the European Central Bank had a legal right to limit the liquidity of Greece’s banks in 2015. The subsequent actions taken were in response to that advice and were responsible for putting so much pressure on the Greek government to accept the lenders’ severe conditions.
      It’s interesting that the establishment of the Eurogroup is not actually part of any EU treaty yet they wield immense power and the ECB are supposed to operate as an independent bank, outside of political influence!
      In response Draghi has said “Legal opinions provided by external lawyers and related legal advice are protected by legal professional privilege (the so-called ‘attorney-client privilege’) in accordance with European Union case law,” Finally, the Eurogroup meetings are, as you say Mark, held in camera and no minutes are taken.

  6. Mark Crown -

    It deserves to be in my view but one of the chapters was too obscure for even an obstinate reader like me to get his head around as I do not really do European philosophy or literature in a big way. Reaction seems to be polarised around those who like it and those who don’t with very little in between. He is also criticised for focussing too much on Europe (but then again, why an earth not?).

    I nearly wrote a précis of it and was going to offer it on Richard Murphy’s blog but I was just too busy in the end. But I would still recommend it as a very good book in terms of ideas and interpretations about Europe and not just capitalism. The way he talks about the issues was refreshing and engaged me.

    To his credit he does summarise his observations quite well in his concluding paragraphs in each chapter. But some might find it too pessimistic and dense.

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