Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There's more democracy in the EU than there is in Britain!

I suppose "Democracy" means different things to different people - certainly each of the 28 member States of the European Union has a different system. Different cameral arrangements, voting systems, subsidiarity etc. There is no right and wrong template, no "more democratic" nor "less democratic" - except subjectively of course. This variety brings with it an interesting test. If the EU was really "undemocratic", as many advocating "Brexit" claim, then from these various perspectives surely at least one member would challenge the system and demand change? But they don't and I'll explain why. 

Over the decades the EU and its predecessors has become ever more democratic as it has pursued ever closer union. Above all, the European Parliament, has evolved into a fully-fledged democratic Assembly. Not perfect, of course, but a solid symbol of the democratic principles that underpin the EU. The Parliament has changed over the years and will continue to do so. At the same time the Commision, the civil servants who make the EU work, have become ever more democratically accountable. It's work in progress and not everything that has to be achieved has been achieved. But Europe has not just a coherent Union but one fit for modern times and one that the 28 members can be proud of.

The concept of "subsidiarity" is key to the EU. Take decisions at the lowest level possible. Ensure that decisions taken in Brussels are taken there because it is right to do so - not to reinforce the EU's power. The U.K. is not in a position to lecture the 27 other EU members on this, nor much else in respect of democracy. We do not delegate to the lowest level possible in Britain anywhere nearly enough. Indeed we don't even have the democratic institutions to do so - other than in the Celtic fringe. Similarly our Governance system is no model for any other State. An unelected Head of State. And unelected Upper House. A voting system which utterly distorts election results in respect of Party representation. And so on.

In the modern world crucial decisions which impact on our lives are taken all the time by those who are not accountable to us. By the Boards of multinational corporations. By the leaders of big countries such as the United States, China or Russia. By often unaccountable non Governmental and transnational bodies of various types from the UN to FIFA (etc.). Are we more likely to be in a position to challenge these processes together with 27 other nations or on our own? Obvious isn't it? So the EU, as well as being increasingly democratic as an institution, has the power to act together and make a difference. It protects our democracy rather better than we do! 


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