Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

How can the EU win the people’s trust?

Former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio raises some important points:

“few official pronouncements, let alone policies, are addressing Europe’s deficit of trust and credibility. The current crisis has exposed the original lacunae and widening cracks in the compact between Europe’s citizens and EU institutions, between Europe’s north and south, and between its peoples and its elites.

“…The EU’s supposed democratic deficit is a corollary of the ‘technocratic imperative’ that has emerged as a favorite scapegoat in the ongoing European drama. According to this view, European integration was flawed from the outset, more than six decades ago, because it was conceived and developed as an elite project. But, for as long as the European project delivered prosperity, no one bothered to question its rationale. [Nosemonkey note: Well, some did – but most were dismissed as fringe loons…]

“If EU institutions are to regain trust and relevance, they need to articulate concrete policies and deliver on issues that bear directly on citizens’ interests”

And what *are* citizens’ interests? There lies the rub: Throughout the long history of European integration, at no point have the people been asked what *they* want out of it. At no point have *the people of Europe* been asked what powers and responsibilities should be pooled at European level.

Because although some might write me off as an anti-democratic elitist, my position on the EU has been fairly consistent in one regard for years: European integration will never work unless you ask the people what form (if any) it should take:

“if our representatives at these meetings are starting from a position of ignorance about what the people they are representing actually want, little wonder that they end up with something that the people then reject.”

This has long been the EU’s most fundamental flaw – and it looks like the current politicians running the place still haven’t realised that they need to address this most serious of issues if any of the others they are facing are ever to be properly dealt with.

God alone knows how, though. Perhaps a multiple-choice questionnaire? “Which of the following areas should be dealt with at EU level? Yes / Maybe / No” (etc.)

Hell, it’s no more stupid than most of the other suggestions I’ve heard over the years…


  1. … and what do you say should happen, when you ask the people “what form should EU integration take?” and they say “None”. Is there any evidence that any national population favours being bound by an EU-wide majority on any question whatsoever?

    Of course it’s possible to get an equivocal answer if you don’t ask the right question, but we’re getting beyond that point.

    Either you’re committed to holding the political structure together by lethal force (as Britain tried to do to America in 1776 and Ireland in 1919), or you’re not.

    The EU’s competences are expanded by the ECJ’s judicial activism far faster than they can be brought under democratic control by treaty amendments. There is no reason, in principle, why the division of EU vs Member State competences as decided by the ECJ should match the treaties, let alone the will of the peoples of the Member States if anyone dared ask them.

    ‘philes need to face reality: they’re never going to get democratic consent for their utopian fantasy project.

    Remember this: making the EU’s structures more democratic will not solve the lack of consent for membership. The UK was a democracy in 1918. One of which Ireland did not wish to be a part.

  2. If you check again, I’m actually proposing asking for pretty much every policy area. And, of course, everyone would be free to answer “No” to every single question – and if a majority answer “No”, then it obviously shouldn’t be enacted. (I may be consistently opposed to referendums, but I’m also consistent in my calls for their results to be respected.)

    A broad question on “EU integration” is pointless – far too vague. The whole point is that the current EU isn’t up to the job, and needs to be entirely rethought. The point here is that I’m suggesting asking the people what system they want to *replace* the current EU – which may well be a return to national-level decision-making in all areas.

    After all, even someone like me, who thinks the general concept is a good one, reckons that there are some areas that are currently being dealt with at an EU level that shouldn’t be. By asking on individual policy areas, we’d be able to get a far clearer idea of what (if anything) the people want to see done at an extra-national level – and in which countries. There’s no particular reason why we can’t have multiple tiers of collective interest, along with multiple opt-outs in some areas. Just as there’s no reason why such an exercise couldn’t lead to the total abandonment of the whole concept of countries grouping together.

  3. Pingback: Europhiles cant identify a workable EU. #No2EU | Martin Keegan