Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pointless Euro-Journalism

This post is really apropos a few of the comments on this Brussels Journal-related blog posted Monday by Bondwoman. And it relates to this piece that I was bemused to read in the G2 today. I’m simply unsure what point this seemingly pointless piece of Euro-journalism is trying to make. It reveals little understanding of, or sensitivity to, the genuine complexity of democracy within the uniquely trans-national setting that is the European Union. And, indeed, it displays little or no understanding as to either the current state of play of the EU Constitutional Treaty, or indeed the prevailing arrangements for ratifying same in the unlikely event that such ratification should ever be called for.

In the spirit of constructive engagement on EU issues, I’d bring the following to the attention of the author of the piece. One: courtesy of the French and Dutch, the EU Constitutional Treaty is already dead – and, by the way, even if it wasn’t it is worth pointing out that it would do nothing (at all) to extend EU competences over the concerns he assigns to our Finnish colleagues - fishing nets, spring duck hunts, and chewing tobacco. Two: the domestic constitutional arrangements whereby member states ratify (or not) new (or revised) EU treaties is entirely a matter for the member states themselves. Anything else would be unacceptable – properly so. If the arrangements described in the article accurately reflect the Finnish constitutional provisions, then it is entirely democratically legitimate (in EU terms as well) that the Alanders can veto Finland’s ratification of EU Treaty amendment (and thereby end the 'life' of that Treaty across the EU). Three: the broader principle that one member state can ‘scupper the plans’ of the rest (and this includes 500,000 or so Luxembourgers or Maltese) by vetoing an EU Treaty (or Treaty revision) reflects that we live in a Union of member states, rather than a Union of citizens. Much of this piece conflates the two. Four: in the absence of an EU demos, it is entirely inappropriate to assume as being identical (or interchangeable) the criteria for a well-functioning and just democracy at the level of the member state and one (and the EU is the sole example) at the trans-national level. Finally – it is not ‘Aland V Europe’, as the title would have it. Rather, it is Aland and Europe. Europe – at least that configuration of Europe that is described as the EU, is the sum of its member states. Its policies and fledgling ‘constitutions’ are the stuff of democratic politics as conducted within, and between, its member states according to rules that we recognise as being properly democratic.

There is no confusion about the democratic rules of ‘constitutional’ engagement in the EU – the rules are entirely clear and very well understood - at least by those who study EU issues if not by journalists. There is an entire literature on legitimacy and democracy at the level of the EU and, in the absence of the emergence of truly trans-national political parties, I suspect that the current arrangements are precisely where the matter will – and probably should – rest. Pan-EU democracy is just as sui generis as is the EU as an international order. So - yes - let us have an informed and a critical debate on the EU. But - please - first off can we ditch some of the half-baked and misleading journalism that appears in otherwise serious newspapers?


Blogger michael the tubthumper said...

the thing with the EU is that there are arguments for and against it on left and right.

when the consitution was defeated it was because all these groups, whilst not actually working together, were on the same side.

it took this to defeat the frankly massive propaganda campaign in favour of the constitution.

even then the politicians began talking about the public having got it wrong or having misunderstood. the level of arrogance is atounding. i for one wouldn't be surprised if they just keep having referendums till they get the answer they want.

if they don't do that they will push as much of it through as they can by other means.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006  

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