Bratislava, Slovakia. 16 May. Oops! I am in the doghouse again. I have just been told off by EU uber-elitiste and Senator-for-Life Mario Monti here at GLOBSEC for raising an ever-so-tedious question about democracy, legitimacy and accountability in the EU. How very uneducated of me. GLOBSEC is truly one of the great conferences but the last panel on the “EU After the 2014 Vote” demonstrated not only all that is wrong with the EU elite, but also the danger to democracy posed by the elite-assumed over-concentration of power in the hands of an unelected few.
In response to my impertinent question (how dare citizens question the powerful) Mr Monti (Senator-for-Life) told me that whilst democracy and accountability were important they were not the only way to get things done. At one point he embarked on a wholesale attack on the very principle of referenda by using a historical case to demonstrate why the people are invariably wrong and that elites should be left to run matters. The last decade of elite-created disaster suggest otherwise.
The language of the session was typical of the cosy elitist love-in Brussels insiders enjoy at such events. Euro-realists (such as I) and Euro-sceptics are suspect for fear we might offend elitist sensibilities. All and any opposition to the ‘European Project’ is dismissed as ‘populism’. All and any of us expressing concerns about the growing distance between power and the people are condemned as populists.
To protect them from any ‘unpleasantness’ the elite invariably surround themselves with their intellectual flunkies and other fellow travellers drawn from the Brussels think-tanks. And, as ever, my country Britain is routinely insulted as the ‘devil island’ because we British even dare to raise fundamental questions of political principle. “Shut up and pay us your money” seems to be the essential message from Mr Monti (Senator-for-Life).
Best (or worst) of all Mr Monti (Senator-for-Life) questioned whether national democracy was any more legitimate than EU ‘democracy’. After all, he said there were British ministers in the House of Lords. He forgot to mention that there is one big difference between British democracy and EU ‘democracy’. In Britain I know who my MP is and if I have an issue I can go and see my representative. On one such occasion the MP in question happened to be a minister and helped to resolve quickly an obvious injustice. Sadly, for too many in the EU elite ‘the people’ exist only in the abstract and ‘democracy’ only matters when the people agree with them. If indeed further integration is to take place and more power is handed to Brussels such concerns cannot simply be brushed aside by the kind of elite dissembling as I witnessed today.
The next European Parliament could have a lot of people elite who do not buy into Project Europe. Some of whom will be nasty extremists but by no means all. Nor will they be as one of Mr Monti’s colleagues on the panel called them a ‘distraction’. Indeed, such arrogant nonsense just demonstrates how detached the EU elite have become from real democracy. Rather, they will be what we in Britain call the loyal opposition and their ‘dissent’ will make the EU more not less democratic because they have been elected by the people. Annoying that, eh?
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this emperor-has-no-clothes debate was the discussion over the so-called spitzencanditaten. These are three EU uber-elitists, uber-insiders Junker, Schulz and Verhofstadt one of whom the European Parliament will likely put forward as the next President of the European Commission. Now, I know we British are meant to shut up and just pay but for what it is worth not one of these three will have any legitimacy or credibility whatsoever with the people of Sheffield. They will be seen for what they are; foreign politicians with too much power over their lives and so far distant from them that a Brexit will become almost inevitable.
The bottom-line is this; as power moves ever further from the people if the issues of democracy, legitimacy and accountability are not addressed properly by the elite the EU will fail.
So, as the EU elite move to deepen political integration (as they will) legitimate criticism must not be dismissed as Mr Monti dismissed me. My concerns are neither populism nor some British disease. Instead the elite must accept the judgement of the people and for once climb down from Mount EUlympus and engage with real issues that concern real people about real democracy.
For the record my aim is not to scrap the EU but to create a Union that I can genuinely feel is representative of and sensitive to my concerns and those of fellow EU citizens. Today’s EU aint! Sorry, Mr Monti you are wrong and dangerously so.