Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The European MegaState Creates Centralized Control
Kevin Ellul Bonici

Posted on 06/02/2003 4:01:34 PM PDT by Sir Gawain

A Constitution for a Single European State, Part 1

The European MegaState Creates Centralized Control

by Kevin Ellul Bonici

Dreams of Unity and Grandeur: Centralisation of Power

On June 13 the final version of the draft EU Constitution will be presented by the president of the 'Convention on the Future of Europe', former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, in time for the EU Summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, on June 20-21.

All parties are represented at the Convention: the highest EU institutions, Member States, candidate countries, national parliaments . . . and yet, version after version, 'Giscard's draft' remains 'Giscard's draft' till the very end.

This blueprint will then have to survive the ravages of an intergovernmental conference by next December in Rome, where the larger EU Member States will wrangle and haggle until some distorted version is agreed. But the roadmap towards European Unity is laid out. It may be a winding road, but it's not a long one.

The proposed Constitution would legitimise a centralised 'EU State' with a real EU President and a true EU government. This is not fringe-talk anymore — it is just a more explicit rendition of the Convention's conceptual structure of the future EU. Even some federalists at the European Parliament are alarmed at the centralisation that is being proposed, comparing the outcome to the French Republic more than the German, or indeed the US federal system.

Meanwhile, the ten Candidate States, having signed the Accession Treaty last April in Athens, are also invited to participate before joining the EU in May 2004. These countries have negotiated their membership in today's EU with yesterday's mind, yet they will be joining tomorrow's version. Each of the 25 Member and Candidate States hold veto power over the Constitutional Treaty, yet no candidate country's government is expected to create any ripples.

In the background, the peoples of Europe, if not oblivious, are simply too happy with European integration to perceive any threats. The EU looks great and opportunities seem boundless. It still thrives on the accomplishments of the nation States that built it, coupled with the freedom of movement that unification itself has allowed. So the rulers do their thing, while the people enjoy the bread and circus.

But let us start with Giscard's Constitutional draft.

A Constitutional Draft under Review

I will not go into the details of its centralising features. That job was effectively done by Jens-Peter Bonde, MEP and chairman of the EDD Group in the European Parliament.

I'll just go briefly through the centralising features themselves.

The proposed EU Constitution removes the current rotating system, where each Member State holds a 6-month term EU Presidency, and replaces it with an EU President who is elected by the European Council. A common foreign affairs minister is also proposed. As Bonde points out, on the global scene the EU would speak and vote with one voice and it would therefore be seen and treated as one State.

Internally, the EU Commission would practically become a central government led by a Commission President that acts as a prime minister, selecting a cabinet of ministers that would still be called 'Commissioners'. Each Member State would propose three candidates, but only 14 Commissioners are chosen and some Member States would have to do without a Commissioner. Instead, they would have "junior commissioners" without portfolios and with no voting rights in the Commission (the "EU Government").

This "EU Government" would have the exclusive right to 'propose' EU-wide laws, which have primacy over national laws. EU legislation would then have to be approved by the European Council, where every Member State would be represented by two or three national ministers. The vote, however, is through a "double qualified majority" vote of 13 of the 25 members, representing 60% of the EU population. This means that 12 smaller Member States can be outvoted by the remaining 13, and just three large States (representing 60% of the population) can actually veto any proposal.

There is no clear delineation of legislative competence between the EU and the national governments. Here, the "principle of EU subsidiarity" would apply. This means that EU-wide legislation would be proposed whenever the "EU Government" deems it necessary to do so. The main consequence here is that there is no effective control over the centralisation of power in Brussels, even if the European Council would appear to have a say through 'qualified majority voting'. It is ultimately up to the EU Court in Luxembourg to decide over conflict of competence, but the EU Court's allegiance is explicitly sworn towards the "common values" of the European Union.

At the European Parliament, much in line with current procedures, the larger trans-national parties would be favoured over smaller parties, with a parliamentary majority that is allowed to financially discriminate against minority opposition groups, even "outlawing" them out of existence if their opposition is seen to counteract against the "common values" of the EU Constitution. These measures border on despotism, not parliamentary democracy.

The draft also proposes a 'Congress of the Peoples of Europe' made up of representatives from the European Parliament (1/3) and national parliaments (2/3). Some have jokingly compared it with China's People's Congress, but this EU version is more of a debating society than a congress. The EU Peoples' Congress would effectively decide and rule over nothing.

Jens-Peter Bonde's Alternative: a 'Europe of Democracies'

Jens-Peter Bonde calls Giscard's draft a 'coup d'etat' against 'the voters, the citizens and the national parliaments.'

'There are two democratic answers to Giscard's proposed coup d'etat,' writes Bonde. 'We can aspire for a genuine parliamentary democracy at a European level, where European citizens elect the president, as in the USA, with a congress to pass the laws and elect and control the executive Government. This is the federalist solution, now partly forgotten by the federalists in the [Convention's] Praesidium. I do not believe in a vivid European democracy since there is no "European people" ready for that. But it is at least a respectable dream for democracy compared to the draft Constitution which is more of a blueprint for increased powers for former Prime Ministers, Presidents and civil servants.'

He adds:

'Or we can endorse an alternative democratic solution — a "Europe of Democracies" [ . . . ] where voters and the national parliaments in every Member State direct and control as much as possible on their own and build an open, transparent cooperation among the EU Member States for cross-border issues which can not be dealt with efficiently in a national Parliament.'

Bonde sees a European Commission, including its president, appointed and controlled by national parliaments, and concerned solely with cross-border issues. The possibility of the veto is not denied, but it would still be up to the European Council 'to decide most laws by a 2/3 majority of Member States', representing at least half of the EU population.

As I see it, a "Europe of Democracies" is a devolved version of the current EU structure. Here, national voters are at every stage allowed to have their final say through their parliaments. It is a realistic, pragmatic road, even if being realistic and pragmatic does not necessarily help in attaining the ideal hoped for.

Ultimately, Bonde's alternative is an EU body that is enabled to receive centralised powers, while the national veto remains a tool that is thought to restrain the growth of this central body.

European integrationists would describe the use of the veto and unanimous decision-making as a cumbersome way towards unification. But if the veto provides a cumbersome process, one must ask: cumbersome for whom? Is it cumbersome for the European peoples to freely populate any part of the EU, or is it cumbersome for the EU to seize and centralise power?

Perhaps the veto lasts only as long as it can last. It has a transient nature. In fact, today's already centralised EU structure has managed to get thus far on the beginnings of veto power and unanimous decision-making. It was only in 1987, when the Single European Act (1986) came into effect, that a form of qualified majority voting was introduced to replace the veto in a number of areas — which kept increasing with every treaty that followed.

You can never step into the same river twice, a Greek philosopher once wrote. We can never again return to the nation States of Europe as they were before the turn of the century. We cannot turn the clock back to the 1970s. We don't need to. The direction is not backward, but forward.

Which way forward then would 'the Ideal' be? Is it towards a centralised EU State, or towards a 'Europe of democracies'? Or would that be a European fraternity of Free States or Free Regions?

Let's switch gear at this junction for some related perspectives.

In Search of 'the Ideal'

The European Union is built on ideals. Every logical step has ideally predetermined the following logical step, until we will eventually see quite an "obviously logical" and "ideal" EU structure. Logic, of course, can be inflicted by that flat-earth perspective which is so counterproductive to life and wasteful of human resources. Humans had to pass through a whole period of Christian Inquisition, for example, to finally realise the wrongs of Inquisition; just as the Soviets did with Stalin's version of Lenin's adaptation of Marxism. And while 'the tragically tried' is repeated in different tones and colours, the fruit of 'the untried' remains rooted in the minds of dreamers.

Social progression is not as it appears and it is not necessarily proportionate to time. Medieval times were by far less cruel than during and after the Renaissance period when tyranny and despotism reigned. And the 'Age of Enlightenment' was not enlightened at all — the free thinkers of the time were the ones who were enlightened, and they were reacting to the atrocities of the established ruling bodies.

Ideals change over time and if you don't happen to be in synch with the 'signs of the times' you might be called passé when in fact you're just being too avant-garde — avant-garde by the era-load, perhaps by the whole lifespan of a civilisation. In a few years' time the concept of a 'European fraternity of Free States' would sound even more ridiculous than it sounds today . . . until such time, that is, when a fraternity of Free States, or Regions, would become not only desirable, but indispensable. When that happens, it would not just be a new page in European history, but a new set of volumes.

So how ideal is a centralised State in order to complete "the ideal" of "unifying" the peoples of Europe in an "orderly" way? Is a centralised phase a necessary precondition for a general devolution of power across Europe? Is this centralised European State what comes in between the nation States and a 'union of free communities'?

I will not attempt to answer these questions. But I believe the circumstances are ripe for the currently pursued European ideal to be achieved. We are as yet far from the saturation point, but I believe that EU centralisation is now nearly impossible to avoid, it can only be postponed.

But going back to Jens-Peter's Bonde's alternative', it very much depends on the role and function of the EU body that would oversee cross-border issues. Ultimately, this is what determines the extent of EU centralisation, not the national veto.

Let's briefly explore this aspect.

Self-empowered Supranational Structures

First, every social structure has its own life-cycle. And by its very nature, every social structure lives to grow larger and stronger. A self-empowered governing structure has much of the power required to centralise and grow stronger.

A supranational structure grows in much the same way. Its growth is determined by its role and function. If its role is empowered to function top-down, then it would act upon national jurisdictions for the purpose of control and self-consolidation. Whenever a supranational entity is empowered with such a role and function, even if restricted to cross-border issues, it requires its own laws and its own law-making mechanisms, and eventually its own enforcement agencies. This process of empowerment leads to a process of self-empowerment. And the key to self-empowerment is the power to legislate.

In other words, once given life, there's this propensity for self-empowered structures to start feeding and not stop growing until a saturation point is reached. Unlike spineless and toothless world bodies that depend on "borrowing" power, a self-empowered supranational structure grows by seizing and centralising more powers from national jurisdictions. And on achieving the power to legislate or "establish policies", it gradually enacts those laws and regulations that tend to perpetuate its existence — no matter what checks and balances are established, including the veto, including nice words in the Constitution which sum up to nothing but "Enlightenment" rhetoric.

This is how the EU has gradually been created. Its legislative and regulatory powers are already in place, and now they're being streamlined, consolidated and framed in such a way as to solidly establish a self-empowering entity. This power is said to be made up of the representatives of the peoples of Europe, and yet, it has a personality of its own. It has its own life cycle.

To prevent a supranational entity from becoming a single point of overwhelming power, its role would need to be limited to a liaison function, such as Interpol's role has largely been so far, or the United Nations, where the powers of member nations are "borrowed", not permanently transferred for the purpose of self-perpetuation. Another example is the Council of Europe, which groups all European States around a Round Table (the Council of Europe has no connection with the 'Council of the European Union'). But the Council of Europe is now an irrelevance, occasionally used by the European Union to coerce States that are outside the Union and therefore outside its direct sphere of influence.

If centralised power cannot grow and self-perpetuate inside a vacuum the ideal would be that no central power is created in the first place. There is no need for centralised power in Europe for the simple reason that power is (was) already centralised in Member States, many already long in need of devolution of power. Without centralised power the EU would function as a "cooperation framework": a means towards freedom, not the absolute ruling power above the powers that rule.

Freedom of Movement between Free States

So let's get back to Jens-Peter Bonde's cross border issues. Which of these cannot be dealt with efficiently by national or regional parliaments, while still preserving the free movement of people, capital, goods and services across borders (the 'four freedoms')?

Is it civil liberties and human rights? Space technology? Defence? The economy? Justice and home affairs? Industry? Agriculture? Where does one draw the line? Can unification take place without a centralised body?

Socially speaking, anything more than the actual 'four freedoms' is superfluous in unifying Europeans. The existence of EU supranational entities would be justified only if they could provide genuine safeguards for its members' citizens, such as the upholding of genuine human rights standards across the region, or the embodiment of agreements between interacting free Member States, or the setting up of a flexible defence set up or emergency system.

Socially unified Free States would have a cooperation framework that provides for the four freedoms of movement. Here, no power is transferred to a centralised body because there is no such body apart from the Member States themselves. If there existed a 'right of refusal' there is no need for veto powers that stop whole agreements. In other words, if EU-wide Law did not exist, no veto could halt the harmonisation of laws between States wishing to do so, since the 'right of refusal' solely concerns the individual Member State. There would be no fear that a group of States might hijack the "centre" (as is currently the case with provisions for "enhanced cooperation" in the Treaty of Nice) because there would be no centre to hijack.

This framework would of course allow for the co-existence of different laws in different Member States, governed only by human rights standards and cooperation agreements that ensure the 'four freedoms'. Euro-logic says that you cannot have freedom of movement without harmonising laws. The first point here is that harmonisation of laws between Member States does not necessarily require EU Law. Secondly, harmonisation of laws is not an absolute necessity, either. If the European family of nations is truly a family, then the 'four freedoms' alone would cause laws to be harmonised whenever circumstances necessitate.

It is the freedom of movement across borders that unifies the peoples of Europe, not a centralised EU government. Yet "governing" these 'four freedoms' seems to have taken a life of its own and is now directing itself towards the predetermined "ideal" of centralised EU control. A centralised European State would necessitate special powers of control in order to contain the diversity that would still exist in Europe. The two — centralisation and control — go together symbiotically as one necessitates the other, creating a spiralling, self-perpetuating motion that can regress only if the motion is caused to cease and the whole system collapses . . .

(to be continued)

Kevin Ellul Bonici is a criminal justice specialist currently working in Brussels. Email:


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government

1 posted on 06/02/2003 4:01:34 PM PDT by Sir Gawain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: AAABEST; Uncle Bill; Victoria Delsoul; Fiddlstix; fporretto; Free Vulcan; Liberty Teeth; Loopy; ...
2 posted on 06/02/2003 4:01:59 PM PDT by Sir Gawain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sir Gawain
3 posted on 06/02/2003 4:19:08 PM PDT by Cathryn Crawford (Save your breath. You'll need it to blow up your date.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sir Gawain
The US ought to offer membership in NAFTA to Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, and other countries that don't want to be dominated by the Franco-German state headquartered in Brussels.
4 posted on 06/02/2003 4:25:38 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sir Gawain
All very sad--very short-sighted.

See my Open Letter To The Conservatives Of Europe.

William Flax

5 posted on 06/03/2003 10:43:02 AM PDT by Ohioan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sir Gawain
I wonder why didn't the EU just save themselves the hardwork and just simply copy Communist Manifesto for their Constitution. It says practically the same thing as the EU's new little Constitution.
6 posted on 06/03/2003 10:46:52 AM PDT by Sparta (Tagline removed by moderator)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson