On 29 January, Tony Blair appeared before a commission of inquiry to explain the manner in which he decided to lead his country into a war in Iraq. On the previous day, a few miles away, the London conference on the future of Afghanistan was held. The issue of political transparency arising from these Bush-era wars continues to weigh heavily on Europeans. The Iraq war raised this issue because leaders manipulated public opinion to create support for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Afghanistan has raised it because in the absence of results in the field or a clear strategy, many citizens have the feeling that their governments are not telling the whole truth about the deployment of their troops.

One of the main intellectual influences for American neoconservatives is the German born philosoper Léo Strauss, who died in 1973. As the American editorialist William Pfaff explained in 2003, in a contested interpretation of Strauss's thought, neoconservatives — among them the architects of the Bush wars — have seized on the idea that it is "necessary to tell lies to people about the nature of political reality," which is too much for the average citizen. At the same time, the higher echelons of government will remain "an elite [that] recognizes the truth… and keeps it to itself." In democratic societies, the temptation to take refuge in the notion that the truth is only for an elite does not only exist for neoconservative ideologues. European leaders who are forced to take responsibility for complex decisions and justify them to an increasingly sceptical public also run the risk of succumbing to this attitude. The lack of transparency that characterized the war in Iraq must not be allowed to prevail in the construction of Europe. The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty entailed a significant cost to the quality of democracy. Its application, as Le Monde explains this week, is subject to an interplay of powers, which is largely incomprehensible to Europe's citizens. Both of these conditions contribute to the danger posed by elitism. Just because it might make the EU weaker is not a sufficient justification for elitism. Éric Maurice