What would democracy in the EU look like?

Declan Ganley

Irish entrepreneur Declan Ganley launched his new eurosceptic political party Libertas in the UK today. He intends to have candidates in each of the 27 member states, apparently, but on what platform remains to be seen.

Mark Mardell writes about on this on his blog – read it here – and reports a comment from the Libertas UK party leader (you have to remind yourself that it claims to be a pan-European party) to the effect that “What ever you do with elected commissioners or an elected commission, they must be accountable to the people. Libertas is seeking such a mandate at the ballot box and that is our first task before we look at exactly ways to reform the commission, president or what ever.” An odd vision of democracy in which the voters find out what policies they have voted for after the election.

Mark Mardell is rightly dubious that the aim of making the EU more democratic comes easily to a eurosceptic party – you can read some of Declan Ganley’s statements about the future of Europe on the Quotebank here – but he is wrong when he says that having elected positions within the EU “would take power away from the people who we choose in general elections.” A principal plank of the pro-European case is that national politicians have already lost a lot of their power to the markets, to technology, to cross-border pollution. Establishing democracy at European level gets that power back, in the interest of the citizens of Europe.

Furthermore, he overstates the case in saying that “National leaders wouldn’t dream of giving them more legitimacy.” The Lisbon treaty foresees that the president of the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament, with the nomination made taking into account the elections to the European Parliament. That could give the Commission president the same kind of electoral mandate as the prime minister in a member state. National leaders might be reluctant – read about their reasons here (reasons 1 and 2) – but they formally support the Lisbon treaty that would open the way to parliamentary democracy in the EU.

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