Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Democracy After Lisbon

Below is a relatively short speech by Professor Simon Hix, on democracy after the Lisbon Treaty, highlighting, according to him, both the positive and negative outcomes.

Despite being a Director of the Political Science and Political Economy Group at the LSE and the author of several books on the EU including; What's Wrong With the EU and How to Fix It, the speech is astonishingly naive.

Take this excerpt from near the end for example, regarding the re-election of Barroso in 2009 :
We didn't see a debate, we didn't see any candidates. Next time round I'm hoping that's not going to be the case because we won't have an incumbent, so there be no sort of deal between a sitting incumbent Commission President and the people he meets on a regular basis who are heads of Government. So you won't have this
pressure amongst the heads of government to support an incumbent. We are likely to see rival candidates for the position of Commission president.

I don't want there to be a direct election of the Commission president, all I want is rival candidates on the table...so we can actually look at what they stand for, what are you going to do for 5 years. Lets have a live debate in EU Parliament...let's have media coverage of their profiles on what they're going to do, so we can ask our political leaders who are you supporting for Commission President and why?

I remember when Bertie Ahern was Irish Prime Minister, Head of the Council when Barroso was chosen [in 2004], and he came to London to talk to Tony Blair and they came out of Number 10...journalists said; "Mr Blair, who are you supporting for Commission President?", He said; "I'm sorry but it's a subject of delicate intergovernmental negotiations".

I almost threw my shoe at the TV. How on earth can you say this? This person initiates legislation and affects our lives as European Citizens. How dare you tell us that you're not going to tell us who you're going to support?
Firstly there's the contradiction that not having an incumbent would hopefully mean more candidates and thus a lively debate, then Professor Hix goes onto reveal an anecdote where that didn't happen in 2004 despite Barroso not being an incumbent.

Then he doesn't believe that the Commission President should be directly elected but concedes that he (or she) initiates legislation and affects our lives as European Citizens. Right, so we shouldn't have any democratic control over the executive that governs our country? I see.

"How on earth can you say this?", Hix continues in frustration at Tony Blair's reluctance not to reveal who he would support.

Well here's a bit of a clue Professor. The candidates don't have a democratic lively discussion, because they don't have to. They're not accountable to us, you see? Do you think the Prime Ministers' debates in the UK were out of goodness of their heart? Of course not. Do think UK candidates traipse up and down constituencies for fun? Of course not, they do it because they have to in order to get elected, because they're accountable to the electorate.

Conversely the job of Commission President relies on support from behind-doors-horse-trading, i.e "delicate intergovernmental negotiations", so having an open, lively democratic debate in the full glare of the media is irrelevant.

Why do you expect any different?

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