Democracy at its Best

, by Mark Seychell

Democracy at its Best

When in June 2008, the Irish voted ‘No’ in the referendum which would have basically decided whether or not the EU would ratify the Lisbon Treaty, the rest of the EU were up in arms. Rightly so? Maybe. The European Union can be easily compared to a computer... if this computer is not going to get updated on a regular basis, then the computer will grow to become an old and faulty machine, prone to error.

The Treaties which have shaped Union Law thus far can be described as the updates; the Treaties of Paris, Rome, Hague, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice have all shaped what was once the European Coal and Steel Community, into the European Union, the global economic, and to a slightly lesser extent political, force that we know today. So far the EU is five from five in its treaties, because all have made significant improvements to the Union and its member states. Who is to say that the Reform Treaty will be any different?

We hear critics and observers alike complain that the EU is not a big enough political force in global affairs, when clearly, the EU, one of the main drivers of the world’s economy, should be up there. An extremely crude summary of what the Reform Treaty aims to do is to streamline the political processes, an aim which indirectly would bring the Union closer to the understanding of the people. This is because a problem which has been highlighted by EU citizens is the enormous complexity of EU Law.

When it was made official that Ireland would hold a second referendum, fundamentalists cried ‘foul’ citing that it was undemocratic to put the people through the whole process again. These people are wrong for the simple reason that Ireland are NOT going through the whole process again, because they are not voting for the same things they did last time round. Ireland’s twenty six EU partners were happy to address the concerns of the Irish without making wholesale changes to the treaty, unlike what happened with the Constitutional Treaty when France and the Netherlands failed to ratify it. The concerns of the Irish people have now been addressed, so there is absolutely no reason on earth not to hold the referendum. After all, isn’t that what true democracy is all about; negotiation until compromise is reached? In fact, the Irish should be proud that they have had a unique chance to change things in a way that is profitable for them, and that is why they will vote ‘yes’ come October, because the treaty in question is a treaty influenced directly by them.

Whatever happens come referendum time, it will be close, a slim victory which either way will change the course of the future for not only Ireland, but also the European Union.

There are worries among the Irish that there will be a backlash vote against a Brian Cowan administration which is clearly losing the confidence of the people. This situation confuses me to say the least. Why would one make a protest vote against one’s own government on an issue of such importance that it could, and probably will, influence the future economic and political well-being not only of Ireland, but also of the entire European Union? This is the responsibility the Irish have, a massive responsibility that they should bear with pride.

Declan Ganley has rejoined the ‘no’ campaign, a move which will clearly be a blow to the ‘yes’ side. Despite this, the ‘yes’ side, spearheaded by the Irish government, and helped massively by Ryanair and the company’s CEO Michael O’Leary, are now privy to Ganley’s scare tactics, and will move to counter it. Whatever happens come referendum time, it will be close, a slim victory which either way will change the course of the future for not only Ireland, but also the European Union. The Irish have earned the admiration of many, including myself, because they sat up, and were counted; they put forward their demands, and yielded results. Now they must realise that change is good; and the European Union has been waiting for change in the form of treaty reform since 2004. Unless we want the Union to become stagnant, the Irish must allow us to move forward.

Image: campaign posters, source:

Your comments

  • On 30 September 2009 at 16:49, by peter in dublin Replying to: Democracy at its Worst -part 2

    A real democratic EU is an EU without a Commission:

    In considering the advantage of a structure like the European Commission, it would be to have it in an advisory rather than legislative capacity, but advisory functions are of course possible in simpler ways. The axis European Parliament-Council of Ministers is both more democratic and efficient in European legislation.

    How did it come to this? The Commission is an enduring hangover from the days of a small, limited, European Coal and Steel Community, a common market for coal and steel set up between 6 countries, when the Commission was called the High Authority.

    That was then, this is now. Now we have 27 member nations in wide-ranging political and economic cooperation.

    Now we have 27 unelected Commissioners, supposedly wise and independent, with sole rights to initiate and execute legislation that affects 500 million citizens.

    Now we have 736 elected Members of Parliament with no real relationship to the Commission (Government) and who basically just look on and give advice to the Commission and to national government politicians, whatever about some approval functions the Members of Parliament (the MEPs) are allowed to share with the national government representatives, who meet as the Council of Ministers.

    Real power is in the axis Commission - Council of Ministers, the latter (in the sense that they can be individual heads of state, and meet as the European Council) of course also appointing the former.

    Let’s have a look at the United States model. Comparisons with the United States usually gives the response “Europe is not the United States!”, “No more power to Brussels!”

    Actually, national sovereignity guarantees can be maintained precisely because the European Union already is like the United States.

    Democracy by Population = The House of Representatives = The European Parliament Democracy by State = The Senate = The Council of Ministers

    see onwards

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