A bad night for the EU
|Friday, 20. November 2009 3 comment(s)||
Der Spiegel’s English edition does not pull any punches in declaring that “Europe chooses nobodies”. This was in response to the news that the heads of state of the European Union’s 27 member states have appointed Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy as EU president (a somewhat puffed-up title for a job that is to chair the Council of Ministers) and the UK’s Baroness Catherine Ashton to be High Representative for Foreign Policy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, perhaps unwittingly, damned them with faint praise when congratulating them saying they will both “grow” into their roles. Van Rompuy and Ashton may well be competent leaders and decent people but they will never escape the image of being ‘the least bad options’.
These positions were always going to be appointments made intergovernmentally – cooked up behind closed doors by the leaders of the EU member states. So it might sound churlish to point out that Baroness Ashton it seems has never even stood for, let alone won, elected office. Indeed the irony of the Socialist group in the European Parliament backing an un-elected life-peer (to the extent that they were willing to link her appointment to Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso’s mandate) seems to have passed them by. For democratic legitimacy Ashton and Van Rompuy can only rely on the fact that they were appointed by the democratically elected leaders of the EU’s member states. Is the argument that those who represent us as Europeans were selected by those who represent us as Finns, Brits, Greeks, Germans, Poles etc. enough to give them legitimacy? I fear it is not. Carsten Volkery concludes the Der Spiegel article by convincingly arguing that:
“One can defend that approach by arguing that that’s just the way things are in Brussels. But anyone who makes that argument should not be surprised if there is little enthusiasm for the European project among the continent's population.”
Leigh Phillips, a reporter for the EU Observer, summed up this sad situation succinctly on Twitter this morning:
“[The] whole process was intransparent, undemocratic and we ended up with a pair of numpties with bad hair. [There is a] need to transcend Eurosceptic/Europhile dichotomy and articulate an analysis that takes on the EU’s post-political anti-democratic form of statecraft while recognising a need for an EU.”
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors