August 20, 2002


Democracy takes a back seat (Kirsty Hughes, 14 August 2002, Open Democracy)
The prospects for engaging Europe's citizens in the debate on the future of the Union are still hostage to the power politics of the member states.

The real risk is that democracy is going to get short shrift both in the European Union (EU) Convention and in the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). This, of course, is not the declared aim. But in a little noticed comment to the Convention in April, Giscard d'Estaing bluntly asserted that while "people often say that Europe must be closer to its citizens, this is not exact - Europe must be more understandable by its citizens."

Nor is Giscard's approach unfamiliar in Brussels, where the patronising view is often heard that if only the public understood the EU better, they would support the EU and its institutions much more. The opposite may well be true; if the public had a better view of its inter- and intra-institutional wrangles and machinations, they might well be seriously appalled.

There's a current vogue in Europe for calling the United States the great threat to global democracy. But the real question confronting the Atlantic Alliance is about Europe's commitment to democracy. Is it possible to reconcile the movement towards European Union, a government by unelected bureaucrats, with the Western tradition of representative democracy? And if Europe no longer believes in democracy, if it is to be governed once again by elites, then it may be time to ask ourselves if our interests have not inevitably begun to diverge? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2002 8:19 PM
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