One of the constant complaints about the EU is its ‘democratic deficit’, a polite way of saying that it is a bureaucratic monster running way out of control. The underlying reason for this is simple – the lack of a genuine European political consciousness amongst voters. This should be no surprise. Outside the mandarin class, there is little notion of an authentic ‘European’ identity (in the EU sense) other than in some fairly superficial matters. We are English, Danes or Flemish (‘Belgian’ is a more questionable conceit) before we are Europeans.
As a writer in this week’s Economist (link requires subscription) points out, Giscard’s efforts to allocate more power to the European ‘parliament’ could actually make the EU even less legitimately democratic than before.
“If voters simply made a cold analysis of a politician’s views and then voted accordingly, Europe’s democratic deficit could be made good quite easily through institutional changes. In fact, all national democracies in Europe rely on a sense of community, a shared culture and, almost always, a common language. This allows voters to act as much more than desiccated policy-analysis machines. They respond to politicians by asking “Do I like this person?” or “Do I trust him?” As soon as a British, Italian or French politician opens his mouth, his compatriots will know many things about him: his social class, region, personal style, and so on. Such cues, so important in making personal and political judgments, barely operate across Europe’s linguistic and cultural barriers.”
Well, lets hope that they do this time. Diamond Giscard’s crooked constitution should be voted down.