EU “will not survive” without more democracy - former ambassador
By Sarah Collins | Friday 03 February 2012
The European Union could break up within the next decade if citizens are not given a more direct say in the election of top EU officials, one of the bloc’s former ambassadors to the US has said. John Bruton, the ex-Irish premier who was also the EU’s envoy to Washington from 2004 to 2009, said that citizens should be given the power to directly elect the presidents of the Commission and Council and that the EU should “take as big a step forward in democratic integration” as it has in “bureaucratic integration”. “Unless Europeans have ownership of the project I don’t think the European Union will survive for the next ten or 15 years,” he told an event organised by the London Speakers’ Bureau and HelmsBriscoe, on 3 February.
He said that “huge” powers being conferred on the Commission via a new treaty on fiscal integration, agreed on 30 January, should not be handed over without direct elections. “Is it sustainable, I ask you, that a body that is not elected by anybody, and in which the people have no say in the naming of the members, should be taking on such powers,” he said. “Can the European Union exist on that bureaucratic integration model? My answer is no, it can’t.”
He added that the January meeting of EU leaders had fallen short of solving the eurozone’s debt crisis because of their lack of focus on the scale of the banking problem. “We are now seeing our banking policy in Europe being procyclical in a downturn,” he said. “Banks that were already retrenching anyway are being artificially incentivised to retrench further - the same banks that were artificially incentivised to expand during the boom,” he added. “That issue - the failure to rationally manage banking policy - is not one that was addressed at all by the heads of government in their recent decisions.”