Let Europeans Vote for EU Officials

November 30th, 2011 at 4:06 pm David Frum | 10 Comments |

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In my column for The Week I explain why the European Union needs more democratic accountability:

The European Union is not a democracy because until now it has been regarded as an association of democracies. The institutions at the center of Europe existed to serve democratic governments, not to replace those governments.

When the euro currency was proposed back in the 1990s, opponents of the euro warned that different countries cannot safely share one money. Either the euro would crack up under pressure (as, say, the Scandinavian cracked up in 1914 after 40 years of Swedish-Danish cooperation) — or else the EU itself would have to evolve into a single polity.

Proponents of the currency pooh-poohed those warnings. Those euro advocates included not only the usual array of Brussels technocrats, but also America’s own leading business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.

Now the issue has been put to the test. The proponents were wrong. The critics were right. The euro now threatens to plunge Europe and the world into financial crisis followed by severe recession. Threatens? The crisis is here, and the recession may already have begun.

Again as the critics warned, there is no easy way back. Quitting the euro will be painful for the countries that go — and even more painful for the countries who stay. Banks will be ruined, governments will step in, taxpayers will be called upon. The technical term for the unleashed process is “adjustment,” but that bloodless term really means unemployment, loss of savings, squeezed public benefits, higher taxes, and years of slow growth.

But to go forward toward a more integrated Europe — just as the euro critics warned, just as the euro proponents promised would never happen — is dangerous, too.

The most troubled countries in the Eurozone — first Greece, now Italy, soon Spain, potentially France — are seeing their local democratic decision-making subordinated to a remote bureaucracy elected by nobody at all.

Click here to read the full column.

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    Err…they already vote for members of the European Parliament (MEP’s). The problem is that national govt’s don’t want to devolve too many powers to that parliament.

    • Cyberax

      Yup. And the recent Lisbon treaty the European parliament has quite some power already.

      But this whole European power framework is quite Byzantine (they should have signed this treaty in Istanbul).

  • dugfromthearth

    Please try to be accurate by using the term “republic” instead of “democracy”. There are no democracies in the world. The only people pushing for them are simply ignorant and do not know what a democracy is. I know that it is standard to misuse the term democracy when engaging in demagoguery but if you are discussing the technicalities of government it would be nice to be accurate.

    • Cyberax

      Wrong wrong wrong. Please look up the meaning of both words in the dictionary.

      What you’re saying is equal to: “There are no oceans in the world, there are only seas”.

  • Diomedes

    Great idea. Because if we have proved anything in recent years is that if people are given the right to vote for elected officials, they always choose the most qualified and adept individuals to represent their constituency.

    Why, look at elected officials like Bachmann, Bush 2.0, Rick Scott or Rick Perry if you don’t believe me……

  • ConnerMcMaub

    I liked this piece. It’s far from radical to suggest that the EU has serious structural flaws. One of these days I would like to see a study of the economic costs the US pays for having 50 different sets of laws.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    opponents of the euro warned that different countries cannot safely share one money.

    Other nations besides the United States use the U.S. dollar as their official currency, a process known as official dollarization. Panama has been using the dollar alongside the Panamanian balboa as the legal tender since 1904 at a conversion rate of 1:1. Ecuador (2000), El Salvador (2001), and East Timor (2000) all adopted the currency independently. The former members of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which included Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, chose not to issue their own currency after becoming independent, having all used the U.S. dollar since 1944. Two British dependencies also use the U.S. dollar: the British Virgin Islands (1959) and Turks and Caicos Islands (1973).
    In January 2000, President Jamil Mahuad announced a policy to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency of Ecuador.

    So the US dollar is a multi-national currency as well shared safely by many countries for a long time. In addition many countries have pegged their currency to the dollar for stability purposes.

    The Euro has a bad cold, it is not cancerous. They have a number of options out of this, one is to inflate their way out while doing austerity regimens in many countries. No need to panic.

    • Cyberax

      We can safely ignore small states like Micronesia – they just don’t have that much of economy to be interesting.

      Ecuador is a heavy export country, so they can easily have ample surpluses and just use as much USDs as required. Panama has its own currency, so they can inflate their currency a bit if required.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    While I agree that Europeans need more say in their destiny, it may be too late.

    The socialist elites think they know what is right for Europe. Arrogant and magnificently stupid, they will drive the continent into the economic abyss.

  • gravymeister

    I lived in France from 2002 to 2005. I maintained my US citizenship. I was allowed to vote for the European Parliament as a resident, even though I was not a citizen of any EU nation.
    Of course, I had no idea who was who.