I’ve just watched Paul Mason’s 4 x 30 minute films on last year’s Greek crisis, # This Is A Coup, they are all available on YouTube.
I had last week reluctantly decided to vote Remain in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership but these films have thrown me into doubt and confusion again.
They show very clearly how Brussels can impose it’s will on member states in spite of and entirely disregarding, democratic decisions made at the local, national level.
The issue here isn’t whether the EU itself is democratic. Personally I have serious doubts about the EU as a democratic institution but even setting those aside, the issue as articulated in these films is. ‘which democratic institution has the final word?’
In the case of Greece the interests of the EU ruling class as a whole and the interests of the Greek people were and still are, NOT the same. The Greek debt, just like the UK debt, was largely a result of the 2008 banking crisis and was taken on secretly and illegally by the Greek ruling elite to protect their own interests by ‘saving’ the financial system. Now the EU expects the Greek people to repay these illegal debts, despite it being clear that to do so will cripple the Greek economy for possibly a 100 years. To be clear these debts CANNOT AND WILL NOT ever be repaid by Greece, but the country will remain for the foreseeable future enslaved to these debts and their economy governed in the interests of the European Central Bank, rather than the Greek people.
And just because these EU decisions were made with the input of democratically elected European leaders does not help the Greek people, nor does it bode well for the rest of us. The interests of the EU, and particularly the Euro Zone are synonymous with the interests of Germany, and to a lesser extent France. Even if the institutions of the EU were democratically reformed (i.e. made more democratic), the question remains as to how ANY Europe-wide institutions could possibly reconcile the interests of a rampant German industrial economy with those of rural, Eastern and Southern Europe?
Theoretically, elective democracy (rather than participative or deliberative democracy), is about the ability of the people to hold those in power to account. In theory, elective democracy forces those in elected office to take into account the impact their policies will have on the electorate, because at elections the electorate have the power to remove the powerful from office, especially if the powerful failed to take into account the interests of the electorate. In theory at least.
And on that basis how could the EU ever be ‘democratic’? Lets look at Greece last year:
The Greek people elected a left of centre government committed to fighting austerity. But the people of much of the rest of Europe had already elected right-wing, neoliberal governments committed to enforcing austerity at all costs. And it was the electorates of these other countries who had the ultimate say over the Greek people. It was Tory voters in the UK and Germany who decided how Greece was governed.
How can this be described as ‘democratic’? The Greek people didn’t elect Cameron or Merkel and have no direct or even indirect, influence over whether they will be reelected next time. The Greek people have no say in who rules in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy or anywhere else in the EU, yet it is the leaders of all those countries, through the European Council and the Council Of Ministers, who ultimately decide what happens in Greece. This is not and can never be democracy in any meaningful sense!
If we apply Tony Benn’s ‘5 question’s to the powerful’ to the Greek situation:
1./ What power have you got?
2./ Where did you get it from?
3./ In whose interests do you exercise it?
4./ To whom are you accountable?
5./ How can we get rid of you?
We can see that despite the fact that the European Council and the Council Of Ministers are made up of elected politicians, as far as the Greek people were concerned the Troika had unlimited political and economic powers which arose from the power of debt rather than any legitimate political mandate; this ‘power of the debt’ was then exercised by the Troika in the interests of the EU as a whole (or more accurately in the interests of the EU/Global ruling class) and specifically against the interests of the Greek people; and the men and women who did this were not elected by the Greek people and the Greek people could not get rid of them. This was a political tyranny created by the financial power of debt.
You could of course argue that the German people had a right to a say in what happened as it would be their finances that would suffer if the debts were set aside or rescheduled… And you would be correct they were entitled to a say! But all that does is illustrate the problem I am describing and confirm the difficulty of reconciling all these competing interests using anything like democratic processes.
However, the problem here is not the Single Market or even in the idea of a political European Union sharing some regulations and a common legal framework, the problem is the agenda of federalising Europe, and this is still the dominant idea of many in the EU elite, especially in France and Germany. Indeed, since Maastricht all the institutions of the EU are being consciously designed to facilitate a Federal Europe; a United States Of Europe. However, this is being done surreptitiously because the EU rulers know that the people of Europe would NEVER, EVER vote for a Federal Europe.
Bearing in mind that the USA was a ‘new’ country devising a brand new constitution, and that even then they had to have a brutal Civil War to assert the idea of Federal nationhood over the rebel states, how on earth do we think a Federal Europe could emerge, except as a bureaucratic tyranny? Seriously folks… how?