European Democracy or European Technocracy?

The European Elections took place over the course of a few days in late May 2019. Across 28 Member States, Europeans went to the ballot box to elect 751 Members of the European Parliament. But did this have any tangible outcome on who will be the President of the European Commission? If the answer is no, then does the European Union violate the fundamental principles of the Social Contact which underpins Representative Democracy?

To answer we first need to rewind slightly to explain how the European Union functions. The European Union is made up four institutions, which maps haphazardly onto our normal understanding of the three branches of government, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The only body to play a traditional role is the Court of Justice of the European Union, which acts as the supreme judicial authority and has the power to rule on matters of European Law.

For the other institutions though there is a weird mix of quasi executive and legislative powers that intersect with one another. For example, in the normal legislative procedure the European Commission proposes draft legislation (either regulations or directives). The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament then act as co-legislators who may propose amendments to the proposed legislation.

Yet, neither have the power to initiate legislation which is the essential role of a legislator i.e. the body which creates law. In a normal representative democracy, the legislature is easily identifiable in the form of a bicameral or unicameral parliament or house of representatives. This is not the case in the EU.

So what bearing do the European Elections have on this process. It turns out very little.

The European Parliament is made up of 751 members from across every European Member State according to a specific formula of degressive proportionality. With European Elections, the mandate of the European Commission also ends. Presidents of the European Commission, European Council, European Central Bank, and the High Representative appointed.

Unfortunately, the vote in the European Elections has zero relation to the outcome of these appointments. The most contentious of course is the role of President of the European Commission. In 2014, the European Union attempted to rectify this by proposing a Spitzenkandidaten process in which each of the political groups would nominate a candidate who would be considered by the Council for Commissioner President. The result was that Jean-Claude Juncker became the European Commission President for 2014-2019.

Following the European elections in 2019 however, the Council has completely ignored this process and nominated Ursula von der Leyen the German Minister of Defense, as President of the European Commission. This begs the question, why did European’s just go to the ballot box and vote? The result has no correlation to the result. Thus, the European Union will now be headed by someone who Europeans have never even heard of outside Germany.

The European Union claims to believe in the rule of law and democracy, but it makes a mockery of these. Liberal democracy is based on a social contract for which the Council and European elite run roughshod over. The social contract we have collectively agreed to is essentially that governments are accountable to the people.

While Europe criticizes nations like Russia for their fake elections, meanwhile the go about politics behind closed doors and in complete disregard for the election results. This is an absolute abhorrent outcome and the Council should be ashamed of itself. Many think it’s important to get out and vote. When you have outcomes like this we can see why 50 percent of people choose to stay home.

What the Council is attempting to do here is a coup d’etat against the legitimacy of the European Union and it will have negative repercussions for years to come. If there were any hope that the United Kingdom might somehow remain with the European Union, this has essentially evaporated with this nomination. The Council has essentially done the work for Brexiteers in showing the European Union to be a bureaucratic, technocratic, undemocratic behemoth.

Euroscepticism has been on the rise in Europe for the past ten years. With decisions from the Council like this, we can only expect Euroscepticism to increase. Citizens might be naïve and largely ignorant about European politics, but anyone with an ounce of reasonableness can see this for what it is, antidemocratic, which is what feeds Euroscpeticism as citizens turn away from parties and institutions which claim to be democratic and represent their interests.

If Europe had any hope of claiming the European Union is democratic, this is now as dead as the Spitzenkandidaten process. The Brexit party turned its back on the European Parliament, but now it’s time for European citizens to turn their back on the European Union. I do not mean break up the European Union, but citizens need to show that they stand for democracy not technocracy. Citizens demand that European leaders end the hypocrisy and do what is in the interests of Europe not just a group of powerful European Member States.