The EU should return power to national governments
The European Union has taken over a large amount of control over numerous areas of policy, and this is not just the areas that the EU was initially created to consolidate; trade, steel and coal. The EU has expanded into regulation, the environment, business and competition, and increasingly justice and foreign and defence policy. The EU is now gaining control over transport policy, cars, security at ports... the list goes on. In many areas integration of policy and regulation is effective, but the EU tends not to give back powers in areas where it is less effective. Does some of this need to be returned to national governments?
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President Klaus (of the Czech republic – at time of writing the Czech republic holds the rotating president of Europe) does not think that the European Parliament can serve as a genuine representative of the citizens, because “there is no European demos”. A parliamentary democracy needs a government and an opposition, which the European Parliament lacks.[[http://www.federalunion.org.uk/blog/2009/02/europe-needs-opposition.html]]
The European Union has a democratic deficit. This is where the European Union and its various bodies suffer from a lack of democracy and seem inaccessible to the ordinary citizen because their method of operating is so complex. The Council of the European Union is not considered democratic (despite it being made up of the heads of the member governments) while the European Commission in many ways performs the function of an executive without being elected in any way.[[http://europa.eu/scadplus/glossary/democratic_deficit_en.htm]] Only the European parliament is directly elected and it is the weakest institution.
As the institutions of the European Union have supremacy over the national institutions the EU cannot be democratically legitimised solely by the participation of the member governments. Therefore either there needs to be a much more powerful European Parliament to provide democratic legitimacy to the federal level or else the role of national parliaments has to be increased to make the EU a more standard international organisation and let the democratic legitimacy come from the national parliaments.[[Mihail Milev, A Democratic Deficit in the European Union?, Centre International de Formation Europeenne, p.12., http://www.geopolitis.net/EUROPE%20EN%20FORMATION/Democratic%20Deficit%20in%20the%20European%20Union.pdf%5D%5D
Having competition between various levels of government when they are all democratic can lead to better services and results for the people. They can see the effectiveness of their politicians at differing levels and there is increased competition for innovation in policies between the levels of government thereby allowing the voters to judge better in elections.[[Pierre Salmon, Assigning Powers in the European Union in the light of yardstick competition among governments, (January 2003), p.3, 7. http://www.u-bourgogne.fr/leg/documents-de-travail/e2003-03.pdf%5D%5D
1) Prof V Klaus is not a reliable source on democracy. He refuses to sign the Lisbon Treaty despite both Houses of the Czech parliament approving it. He is in a minority on other issues as well - e.g.: global warming.
2) i) Yes, there is a democratic deficit but it is gradually being reduced through the E.P. acquiring additional powers as against the Council. Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty would greatly strengthen Parliament, and introduce a role for national Parliaments. These would substantially reduce the deficit further.
2) ii) However, so long as MEP's are elected by proportional representation, whilst MPs are elected by first past the post; the MEP has substantially greater credibility than his/her Westminster confrere.
2) iii) The consultative bodies, (both elected and self appointed), think-tanks, university co-operation, and others offering advice or being consulted by the Commission or Parliament, give the 'political classes' (OK: - chattering classes) perhaps a greater input into policy making , than can be claimed for civil society in the UK.
Europe is infamous for its bureaucracy, deciding on almost everything, projects in Europe take years to get off the ground. Particularly for passing regulations on all sorts of little things, such as the Commission Regulation on the issue of licences for the import of garlic in the subperiod from 1 June to 31 August 2009.[[Commission Regulation (EC) No.171/2009 on the issue of licences for the import of garlic in the subperiod from 1 June to 31 August 2009, 4th March 2009, Official Journal of the European Union, 5th March 2009, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:061:0008:0009:EN:PDF%5D%5D
Returning power to the national Governments could reduce this bureaucratisation.
While there are obviously some regulations that are not necessary returning power to the national governments would not stop silly regulations from being created, they would just be done at the national level rather than the European level. This would transfer regulations from one set of bureaucracy to 27 differing bureaucracies that would then need to coordinate between them; this would be much more inefficient.
The European bureaucracy is also extremely small in terms of the number of people it employs, so if it creates all this regulation and legislation that is associated with it then it is extremely efficient. The commission employs just over 25,000 people (so less than 1000 for each country) that serve the European Union’s 455million people.[[Serving the People of Europe: What the European Commission does for you, European Commission, Brussels 2005, p.3, 6, http://ec.europa.eu/publications/booklets/move/54/en.pdf%5D%5D This can be compared to the Cabinet office that performs a similar role of coordinating policy within the UK with 1500 staff.[[ Cabinet Office Departmental Report 2007, introduction, p.7. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/corp/assets/publications/reports/annualreport/2007/intro.pdf%5D%5D However the commission also performs the role of formulating policy that is performed across numerous departments within national governments.
The European Union is too centralised
The European Union now has control over numerous areas from trade and agriculture to regulation to justice with movements towards security falling under the European Union in the not too distant future. Many of these areas do not need to be under the European Union’s jurisdiction and can be better carried out by national governments. After all the European Union does not carry out its own policies it just reserves the right to regulate the whole union, referring members to the European Court of Justice if they don’t do what they are told! As the powers the EU has been accruing since it was set up have been slowly given over various treaties or by voting in the European Council there is a very unclear distribution of powers. There is no set constitution stating what powers should fall to the national governments and which to the supra-national European Union.[[http://www.jeanmonnetprogram.org/papers/00/00f1201EN-02.html]]
There are some areas where bigger is better and so far the European Union is not centralised enough. Foreign Affairs and diplomacy where European policy needs to be more centralised to be effective. Europe is a political minnow compared to its heavyweight status in economic affairs. European foreign policy is not internally coherent, there has been a particular split over Iraq and over how to deal with Russian aggression. This means that even in europe’s immediate neighbourhood it is up to the USA not the EU to be the main actor. For the EU to take more coordinated action foreign policy needs to be more supranational than intergovernmental, unanimity makes it too easy for any member to halt progress, and without an individual leadership the EU cant react quickly to diplomatic crises.[[Can EU be a unified voice on the world stage?, Irish Times, 15th May 2008, http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0515/1210799122192.html%5D%5D
Centralisation can be necessary
In some areas national governments having more power results in under provision of public goods, particularly in some key areas where coordination seems obvious and would really help the whole of the European Union, areas such as asylum policies and environmental policies. The national governments and legislatures push for higher spending on goods, and regulation that benefit them so there is little spending on public goods that would benefit the whole of the community but which some will not benefit from so they block any progress. It is therefore necessary for centralised decision making in these areas, as the national government does across a single nation the EU must across multiple.[[Robert A.J. Dur, Hein J. Roelfsema, Why does Centralisation fail to internalise Policy Externalities, Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper, (Amsterdam 2002) pp.2-3, https://www.tinbergen.nl/discussionpapers/02056.pdf%5D%5D
Power should be devolved to levels lower than the national government
Arguments that can be made that power should be devolved from Europe to the national governments can often equally be made for devolving power to smaller units within each nation, or from the European Union to the these sub national units rather than to national governments. In Europe the idea of subsidiarity has become accepted and incorporated into treaties by this government should take place at the lowest level possible. Legitimacy derives from the people upwards to the level of government that can best carry out the task efficiently.[[John Hopkins, Devolution in Context: Regional, Federal and Devolved Government in the European Union, (Routledge, 2002) pp.25-6.]] So devolving power tends to increase legitimacy as the politicians are elected on a more local level and each one if often elected by less electors.
Although the European Union itself is slowly accruing powers and slowly centralising overall having the level of the European Union results in decentralisation. The European Union prevents all the power being in the hands of the national governments thereby helping to protect minority interests and human rights against any overmighty national government. Essentially the two levels of government provide checks and balances on each other. For ecample the European Court of Justice has overruled the Home Office on an immigration case. The home office refused Hacene Akrich a Moroccan married to a British women the right to remain in the UK having been married while a illegal immigrant as being against European free movement rules.[[Philip Johnston, EU overrules Britain’s refusal of entry to Moroccan , Telegraph, 24th September 2003, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1442314/EU-overrules-Britains-refusal-of-entry-to-Moroccan.html%5D%5D
What do you think?