10 November 2006

EUobserver - European Democracy

Dear readers,

As usual, Peter Sain ley Berry (the editor of Europa World) has come out with a brilliant article on what he calls "A gaping lacuna at the heart of European Democracy". He refers to Jacques Delors' definition of European democracy, and underlines the lack of critical media focus in this definition (politic, socio-economic and civil society). He also goes on to explain that most European member state politicians are following (consciously or not) Delors definition. And, according to him, it is another reason for the current crisis of confidence the EU is finding itself in. If you prefer, he thinks that citizens don't trust the Union because there is no European Press to criticize it, analyse it, talk about it and serve as a way of expression about it for them.

I would certainly agree to such a statement. However, I think Berry is missing a most important point. Before there can be a power that can be criticized by an independant but truly European Press, there need to be actually a power. Any power. But that's the prerequisite now lacking in Europe. Delors in his definition brushes it slightly (but without daring to go any further) when he mentions the political criteria. Democracy means conflicts are solved in a political way. But most importantly, it is legitimacy which is at stakes. A democracy is a system of government where legitimacy comes from the people. This is exactly what Europe is missing. Before a European press to criticize it, we need a legitimate European power.

And what do we have? Traditionally, in a democracy, power is divided in three. Legislative, executive and judicial powers are separated and the three must have legitimacy. In the European Union, the legislative power is shared between the European Parliament and the European Commission. But only the European Parliament has legitimacy, as it is elected by the people. The executive power is shared between the European Commission and the European Council. But none of them has people's legitimacy. And the simple fact the EU Commission shares power with both also means that there is no true separation of powers. So the EU is actually adding up two of the main "sins" any democracy should avoid: no separation of powers and absolutely no legitimacy for the executive power. This is a recipee for disaster, as the last Constitutional debate has proven.

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