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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What's wrong with the EU?

Really interesting book coming out from Simon Hix at the LSE.

Given that he is generally "pro", he has some pretty scathing comments about the limits of the EU's much vaunted new "transparency":

Under the rules agreed at the Seville European Council, debates in the Council are open to the public at two stages of the co-decision procedure: (1) during the initial stage, when the Commission presents its initial proposal and in the ensuing debate between the governments; and (2) during the final stage, when the public can see the final vote in the Council on a bill and hear the explanations of how each government votes.

The Council advertises which sessions are open and at what times on its website. However, Council debates are not open during the first reading of legislation under the co-decision procedure, after the initial debate on the Commission’s proposal, which is when the governments get down to the serious business of agreeing a ‘common position’ on the legislation. Deliberations are not open during the second reading of legislation, when the Council considers the amendments proposed by the European Parliament, nor at third reading, when the Council discusses whether to accept or reject a ‘joint text’ they have agreed with the European Parliament in the conciliation committee (which meets if the European Parliament and Council still disagree after two readings in each institution).

And, debates are not open at any stage of the consultation procedure, which is still used for almost half of all EU legislation. Hence, despite the recent changes, the Council is still probably the most secretive legislative chamber anywhere in the democratic world. One could even go as far as saying that the legislative process in the Chinese National People’s Congress is more transparent than the legislative process in the EU Council!

He takes a number of other things head on too. Looking at the idea that the EU just needs to work harder on its public relations he notes that:

The problem is that as people learn more about the EU, they start to understand that economic integration benefits some social groups more than others, that they pay significant amounts into the EU budget and do not see much in return, and that it is almost impossible for them to change the direction of EU policies.


Anonymous said...

The Democratic deficit in the eu is huge, after all the commission are not democratically elected, but hold most of the powers to do anything, the constitution will hand over even more power to them, and the majority of the people, who don't want it, are being ignored.

Anonymous said...

Barry should try reading some basic facts about the decision-making process of the EU. If he did, he would find out that EC legislation is adopted by the Council (of national ministers), sometimes jointly with the European Parliament; the Commission only proposes the measures.

As for the Hix book, the analysis of the Council's openness after the Seville summit is out-of-date, since the rules were reformed in June 2006 to introduce considerably more openness in Council decision-making. However, I would agree that the level of openness should be improved further. The Constitutional Treaty would do just that....