Anyone but Barroso February 16, 2009Posted by didacgp in Uncategorized.
Tags: Europe, Politics
by Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris
What makes us democrats? Is it some kind of passion for a set of values and principles? Is it the will to be ruled by ourselves more than by an established, distant, authoritarian power? When is democracy “democracy”? If we have to choose one concept, one word, this would be responsibility. Responsibility understood as accountability, as the power and the guarantee given to the citizens to “judge” the political action of the governors. Max Weber said that a politician needs three things, passion, sense of responsibility and sense of distance to take the right decision at the right moment. Responsibility is what makes us democrats.
In Europe we don’t have a democracy yet. The European Union remains something of a hybrid, between a federal association of States and a pure functionalist set of institutions, protecting the national interests of each State. We have a Parliament, but we don’t have a parliamentarian system where the members elect and appoint the “executive” power, the Commission. We have elections yes, but the result of these elections is not linked directly with the future composition of the “government” of the European Union.
The question that we, as Europeans, have to ask ourselves is if this institutional imperfection that doesn’t present the European Union as a truly democratic entity can be an excuse for not being democratic, or at least, for not acting with a democratic sense of responsibility.
Five years of a “no man´s land”
All that for saying something pretty simple: I have a problem with the current president of the Commission, J.M Durão Barroso. During his mandate the European Union has failed to present a convincing enough project to the citizens for a new constitutional treaty. During his mandate the Council has become clearly the predominant institution of the EU, the Commission being more at the will of the Member States than that of the “general will” and “general interest” of the European Union, which, as established by European treaties, should be his first mission. During his mandate the Commission has presented some of the most unpopular legislative propositions, some of them rejected by left-right coalitions at the European Parliament like the 65 hours directive. Also, during his mandate, the role of the President of the Commission of improving the “image”, the “prestige”, the “transparency” and the “visibility” of Europe has decreased. I will not make cruel comparisons with the credibility of Prodi or Jacques Delors. I will not comment all the enormous mistakes made by this Commission when dealing with journalists, treating them as “potential spies”, or “boycotting” some of them, as Jean Quatremer puts forward in his blog, one of the most read about European subjects.
Nevertheless, after all the political mistakes and 5 years where Europe has become some kind of no man’s land, Barroso wants to be reappointed.
No one in the public sphere in Europe has the courage to say no (perhaps with the discrete exception of Daniel Cohn-Bendit?). Not even the former president of the Council of European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy, nor the President of the European Parliament. Not even the Party of European Socialists that remains silent in choosing a candidate for the post (and we just have now five months before the European elections). Just some citizens, some teachers, some scholars, some Europhiles look at our leaders asking them: are we the only ones here with a sense of democratic responsibility? Are we the only ones worried about the construction of a more integrated and efficient Europe? Are we the only ones that want a more visible, more popular and more political Europe? All in all, perhaps it is the case.
I was thinking these days who I will like to see as the next President of the Commission. The credible alternatives are three (as some blogs and websites as “Anyone But Barroso” created by Jon Worth are pointing out): The French Pascal Lamy, director General of the WTO and former European Commissioner. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian PM, involved in EU matters for many years, a liberal committed to a strong role for the EU in the world. And finally, my favourite one, Margot Wallström. Probably the only member of the European Commission “who genuinely believes in communicating with citizens and an openness of the EU institutions” as the website “Anyone But Barroso” points out. She is also the first commissioner to have a blog and the current Vice-president of the Commission in charge of Institutional Relations and Communication.
The force of new media
A Swedish socialdemocrat, Europhile convinced. Relatively young. Former Minister of Civil Affairs responsible for Consumer, Women and Youth matters in Sweden, as well as former Minister of Culture for two years.
She has a crucial advantage. During the last American elections we saw how a candidate can win by understanding the power of the Internet and new media and how these media can put ahead the choice of the people before the choice of the administration. Margot is the only one that can mobilize the supporters, mostly young internet users, using the power and force of new media. Internet users are very devoted. They recognize and support pretty easy those politicians who work seriously for them, in their digital field, in their “world”.
Perhaps it is a good opportunity to mobilize us. Some kind of “Internet users of Europe, unite”. Perhaps it is a good opportunity to show that we matter in the decision of who is going to be President of the Commission. I don’t want someone that has failed. If Europe was a democracy, I would vote no to Barroso.
(Jean Quatremer Blog)
http://www.anyonebutbarroso.eu/en/ (Anyone but Barroso)