EU elites keep power from the people

On one point the populists are right – the EU doesn’t listen to its citizens. And actions undertaken by leaders and institutions only reinforce the sentiment that European integration proceeds through technocratic measures over which people have no control.

Published on 24 August 2011 at 14:46

When the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas says something about Europe and his country, Germans take special note. As a passionate European with a big following in the United States, Mr. Habermas, 82, comments when he senses that things are going very wrong.

So when he recently delivered a speech in Berlin amid the continuing euro crisis, he captivated his audience. He accused the political elites of reneging on their responsibility to bring Europe to its citizens.

“The process of European integration, which has always taken place over the heads of the population, has now reached a dead end,” Mr. Habermas said at a forum hosted by the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It cannot go any further without switching from its usual administrative mode to one of greater public involvement.”

The political elites “are burying their heads in the sand,” he said, adding, “They are doggedly persisting with their elitist project and the disenfranchisement of the European population.”

Those who agree with Mr. Habermas often cite the behavior of José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the Union’s executive, and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, which represents the 27 member states.

During these past months, both have failed to explain to a wider public what is happening to Europe and the euro. When they give interviews, they tend to address an elitist audience. Neither reaches out to citizens. “I doubt if they ever thought of doing town-hall meetings,” said Pawel Swieboda, director of DemosEuropa, an independent research organization in Warsaw.

“They don’t bother to do such meetings because they don’t have to stand for election,” added Reinhard Bütikofer, a German and leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. Read full article in the New York Times

Eurozone governance

Herman Van Rompuy – the journeyman

The idea of appointing Herman Van Rompuy as “Mr. Euro”, aired by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy during their August 16 meeting, is only the latest example of “appointment by appropriation” within the European institutions. “On his election as President of the European Council in 2010, the former Belgian Prime Minister made two things clear,” writes ABC on this subject: “that he was well aware his appointment was the clear wish of the Franco-German axis, and that he understood his mandate to be the rescue of the welfare state, the pillar of the socio-political organisation of the Old World faced with the challenges of the globalised economy.” The proof that “this man who looks pliable actually knows what he is doing”, writes the Madrid daily, “is that he has not responded to the Franco-German proposal regarding his new role as head of a European economic government that the Franco-German axis has placed its hopes of saving the euro in. His first reaction was to make an official visit to Norway, a country that belongs neither to the EU or the euro area but whose currency depends on the single currency, as if nothing had happened.”

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