Democrat - November-December 2007 (Number 105)
Direct democracy is at stake
The new EU Lisbon Treaty due to be signed this month would consolidate
the position where only the non-elected will have the right to propose
legislation in the EU. The Commission would be more powerful than
ever if the EU Constitution is put in place and would exercise legislative,
executive and judicial authority. The Commission in Brussels would
retain the sole right to propose legislation, and in many more areas
A minor concession towards direct democracy was achieved which consists of the right for a million voters to sign a petition to put forward a proposal to the Commission. But, the Commission is not obliged to listen. This is the only direct nod to voters in the text of the Lisbon Treaty. In no way is this impractical concession a substitute for the huge loss of democracy by the Member States.
Even with one million voters the Commission, who meet and take decisions in secret, has no need to answer or respond to the voters. The Commission does not answer to voters and cannot be kicked out at the next election because that democratic process is non-existent.
Prime Ministers appoint the Commissioners. After 2014 the Commission would be cut in size and there would only be Commissioners from two thirds of the Member States. The President and Commissioners would depend on a super-qualified majority vote of 20 out of 27 Prime Ministers. Even though these nominations have to be approved by the European Parliament the MEPs can only have a 'yes' or 'no' vote on the President and the whole of the Commission. MEPs cannot nominate Commissioners or the President.
Prime Ministers are elected as a result of general elections where voters have a direct influence on who they want as a government after the election. In contrast voters have no direct influence over, or on the formation of, the government of the EU - the Commission.
This means that the unelected control nearly everything and leaves those elected just with the ability to influence. The electors across the EU cannot remove those who have taken control and can only elect those who have influence.
As most laws are now generated by the Commission in Brussels, MPs at Westminster only act as rubber stamps for EU legislation, most of which they do not see and in any case cannot change. Increasingly this would leave parliament as an empty shell with no powers and the electorate going through the motions of electing MPs who have no power to legislate.
After 2014 with the reduced size of the Commission, one third of Member States would not even have a Commissioner. Voting by Prime Ministers using super-qualified-voting leaves Member States ending up in a minority and possibly without a Commissioner, having no influence whatever over EU matters.
To sum up:
The unelected have the power and right to legislate. Voters and the elected only have 'influence' which can be ignored. That is the parlous condition direct democracy has been brought to in the EU which would be worsened still by ratification of the Lisbon EU Constitutional Treaty.
Governments must make clear to the electorate the implications and where the powers to legislate and govern will lie.
Electorates must have the right to reject or accept this proposed system of government in a fair referendum.