How are you supposed to find out what’s going on in the EU? It’s a damned hard task: byzantine procedures and a multitude of complex websites.

So it was sad today to read that one of the only websites dedicated to this task – IPPRO MEP – is suffering financial problems and might not be able to continue. How the EU needs something like TheyWorkForYou.com! You do wonder who actually has the incentive to finance such a site: the EP itself will surely be reluctant as in recent times their record on transparency has not been too much to shout about, and private enterprise in Brussels is not going to bother either – after all too many people in Brussels make cash out of selling knowledge about the EU to businesses. Sites like IPPRO MEP means that anyone can do that, partially, for free.

Beyond IPPRO MEP there are a couple of other stories that have caught my attention. The first is Jack Thurston’s post at CAP Health Check where he tries to get to the bottom of which countries voted for and against certain aspects of CAP reform. Not an easy task, and Jack’s post is not pleasant reading.

Secondly the PES Congress meeting in Madrid has decided to not take a position on who to nominate as President of the European Commission. Both Socrates and Zapatero, PMs of Portugal and Spain respectively, have decided to back Barroso as Commission President, despite the fact that Barroso is a Christian Democrat. How is any citizen supposed to take the European Parliament elections seriously if the top job has already been stitched up behind closed doors? More from UEF.

Dire.

11 Comments

  1. Central Scrutiniser,

    Somehow the parliamentary system seems to need these political parties – at national and European level – to end up with the directly elected parlamentarians.

    Is it possible that a real government, accountable to the European Parliament, would have a better chance of securing adequate resources than a present style Commission dependent on handouts from national governments?

  2. Central Scrutiniser

    Ralf,

    You are quite correct in that sense. The current economic and political conditions, as well as post admin-reform fatigue and a lack of administrative resources to cover the portfolio in 27 states, are eroding the Commission’s ability to do its job. The member states are largely responsible for this state of affairs.

    But surely democracy in Europe should come through Parliamentary scrutiny of Commission proposals by directly elected representatives rather than political groupings being more active in proposing candidates for President of the Commission. In my mind it is the European Parliament that represents the people of Europe.

    The role of the Commission is to build Europe i.e. implement the Treaties. I sincerely hope that it will never become an international secretariat like that of the UN. I have immense respect for the work and the people of the UN but it wouldn’t and couldn’t create the kind of European Union we expect from a professional, permanent and properly resourced Commission.

  3. Central Scrutiniser,

    Might not the road towards secretariatdom and difficult conditions be two sides of the same coin?

    Barroso-bashing: The ratification procedures and the choice of national referendums, as well as treaty amendments, have been in the hands of national governments. In this the Commission is made a scape-goat.

    I also agree that real competing candidates are needed, but for that the European level parties have to start taking themselves and the citizens seriously.

  4. Central Scrutiniser

    Ralf,

    I cannot see how this vision of the Commission becoming an international secretariat can be taken seriously. I can see some weight in the argument that the Commission might be behaving that way in certain circumstances.

    The Commission is unique in the world. No other international organisation has exclusive competencies that extend to suprantional law-making and enforcement. The Commission is obliged to defend the Treaties and to progress the objectives therein regardless of national positions. As far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, there is no mechanism to undo or reverse that unique position. What can a Commission President do to change that?

    I am happy to defend the Commission and Barroso because I think they are making good progress under difficult conditions. Bringing Europol into the Community was a shrewd move. Europol was doing pretty well beforehand but it is a wasteful dupication to extend Community competence into Justice and Home Affairs whilst Europol remains an intergovernmental organism on the sidelines?

    I am not an apologist for everything theCommission and Barroso do. I just think that a campaign in favour of a particular candidate would be infinitely better than Barroso bashing, which I think gives succour to those who would like to dismantle Europe. Thelatter perform an important function as they force us to reiterate and make the case for Europe on a daily basis. Anyone but Barroso, by definition, includes some of these anti-Europe characters whom, I’m sure, none of us really wishes to see at the head of the Commission.

    So whom should that elusive candidate be in these tough times for Europe? I would rather have Barroso for another term and I think the most relevant development in the real world is that the major political parties have come to the same conclusion.

  5. Waldo Vanderhaeghen

    IPPRO Med will soon have an alternative, keep an eye open for this one!

    http://euractiv.blogactiv.eu/2008/12/02/votewatcheu-new-online-tool-to-monitor-eu-decision-makers/

  6. Central Scrutiniser,

    I may have expressed my opinions less than clearly, but I don’t subscribe to calling Barroso rubbish or prefering anyone as long as it isn’t he.

    This does not mean that I am uncritical of the present Commission or Barroso, but some of the sins ascribed to him rightfully belong among the governments convened in the Council and the European Council.

    I have written on my own blog that even if Barroso happened to be the best Commission President ever, it is an unhealthy situation that the European political parties fail in their most basic mission: to present alternatives to the voters.

    For me, this is a matter of principle and for my vote the candidates for the Commission Presidency will probably be the decisive factor.

    It is not only my view that intergovernmentalism is on the rise and that petty national egoism has supplanted much of what was a modicum of Community spirit, but an analysis shared by a host of respected EU pundits who see the Commission on its way to becoming ever more like an international secretariat.

    I get the impression that your defence of Barroso and the Commission is heartfelt, but does it square with developments in the real world?

  7. Central Scrutiniser

    Ralf,

    I think ‘Anyone but Barroso’ implies vehement criticism. Do you really mean absolutely anyone?

    I do not agree that intergovernmentalism is on the rise. One of the quiet achievements of the Barosso Commission has been to encourage the winding-up of several key European intergovernmental organisations and to consolidate their activities into the Community competences: Europol, The Council of Europe, the European Patent Office, Western European Union to name a few. At the same time Community positions are increasingly on the agenda of every intergovernmental organisation from the UN to NATO.

    In an era of anti-Europe sentiment that, combined with inspired and populist policies (e.g. mobile roaming charge capping, free fruit in schools, repealing daft regulations), looks like a shrewd strategist at work to me.

  8. Pingback: Lessons learned from mySociety « Bente Kalsnes’ blog

  9. Central Scrutiniser,

    I am not vehemently opposed to Barroso. I even find it unfair to accuse him (and the Commission) for three negative referendums out of five on the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, because treaty amendment most clearly is a prerogative the member states have kept to themselves, marginalising both the European Parliament and the Commission.

    One just has to think about the terms ‘intergovernmental conference’, ‘unanimity’ and ‘national ratifications’ to see where the responsibility lies, squarely.

    On the other hand, intergovernmentalism seems to be on the rise and the Commission seems ever less able to defend the interests of us EU citizens as a whole.

    In my view, the present Commission was unprepared and timid in the face of the financial meltdown and the recession, and the belated efforts have an aura of Potemkin.

    But even if Barroso happened to be a superb President of the Commission, it is a sick situation if 500 million EU inhabitants are offered no choice but the white smoke emerging from a conclave of 27 national leaders.

  10. Central Scrutiniser

    Very interesting. It is beginning to look as though history will be rather kinder to Barroso than we recognise. What I don’t understand is the vehemence of opposition to Barroso. It appears that he has support across the major party political fault lines – an achievement in itself.

    I know very well that there are times when it is much more desirable to be in the opposition holding the executive to account. Taking a long hard look at the challenges ahead, it may be that no one else really wants to step forward.

    In that sense we are very lucky to have someone as able, willing and widely supported as Barroso.

  11. Yes, Jon, in the end you and a few other fellow-bloggers managed to get me agitated enough to write a post about our European level parties and their commitment to meaningful elections.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *