Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How much do you know about, or have interest in EU?

One of the most common arguments of the Euro-skeptics is that the EU is undemocratic, a corrupt block that wants to take a grip of every nation and squeeze out all resources, dragging its people into poverty. That is the New Soviet Union, an authoritarian regime that cares not for the people.

They are gaining the public's votes and support by using populism, a very simple and one-sided way of explaining European politics. The reality is that many of the things that the EU offer us as citizens we take for granted. For example the freedom to move, study and work in any country in Europe you wish.

There are also many programs that the EU is running for the betterment of its citizens' lives. Any citizen can receive grants to open a small business from scrap and farmers to grow their business. The EU is also promoting of the equal rights of women, of the various minorities and also offers grants to develop the poorer regions of the region.

How many of us actually know our rights as EU citizens, what is being discussed in the European Parliament (EP) and who our MEPs are? There is a lot of information in the various EU portals, but our Governments and their civil servants avoid encouraging people to look for those details and information.

We usually hear about what is happening in EU only when there is a referendum or a major crisis. We are left to believe that certain decisions are taken by some "foreigners" in a far away country called Belgium. There is indeed a democratic deficit in EU, but it is only because our Governments do not want to lose control of the decisions that are being taken by EU.

The Euro-skeptics on the other hand, are conservative folk and do not want to give more power to the EP, thus making EU a real federation and not the confederation that it is now. In a confederation, people have less direct say in the political system's affairs, as exactly happens in EU today. So in fact the Euro-skeptics are blocking any democratic development in the institution, by opposing giving more authority to the EP, the only way to make EU more democratic.

The EP has to co-decide all future policies with the EU Council. The Council is comprised by all our Governments together. When the Council meets to decide for future policies on Agriculture for example, the ministers of Agriculture of each EU state meet with their counterparts. In other words, our Governments have about half of the responsibility over the future EU legislation, so to say that EU is imposing anything on us is simply absurd.

The Commission, the third legislative body of the EU, is formed by chosen representatives of the elected Governments of each state. There have been many controversies regarding the Commission, the most recent was about the appointment of the Bulgarian Commissioner and the re-election of Mr Barroso. We need to have a say on who our Governments sent to work in the Commission, as it has so much power and influence.

In a real federation the people vote for and thus control directly, both the national/local Government and the Federal one, having a direct say in them,like for example in Germany. But that requires a fully functioning parliament, with all the powers and authority that it needs to pass legislation, something that we lack at the moment in Europe.

Many fear centralization in Brussels and it is a very valid argument. Greece is a terrible example of a centralized government. Athens takes control of all decisions and most of the wealth and development ends us there, while if it reformed itself in a more Swiss or German model there would be less corruption, inequality, red tape and more efficiency. Switzerland on the other hand, is a Confederation only in name and it has been transformed over the centuries to a true Federation.

A centralized government in Brussels is something to avoid at all costs. The EU is not and should not be transformed into a nation or a single state as soon as possible. But since it is here to stay, we better form it according our interests. The only way to make it work for the citizens and not the lobbyists, is for us to have a strong and direct voice in it by empowering the EP.

If you ignore the European Elections, you are indifferent for any democratic legitimacy in EU and then you not only lose the right to vote but your right to Democracy. The EEC was formed with a vision. Over the decades and after the economic success that followed, everybody is taking its existence for granted and is indifferent to it.

Many others are turning skeptical of the institution and it is no wonder, with so many negative press it is receiving. If we take into consideration the indifference of our Governments, to explain to their citizens what the country gains from EU membership, then we can see why there is a lot of skepticism.

The problem is that our Governments do not want to hand over too much power to the organization they have created and supported for decades. They objected for the first EU President to be Mr Juncker, Luxembourg's current PM, because he is too federalist for their interests. They prefer someone that will keep EU as it is right now.

A tool of Europe's governments pushing for the reforms that they want, while keeping the balance between the conservatives and the liberals in place. But under the current intergovernmental, lobbyist and elitist  model of governance of the EU, it is us the citizens that are left out and being misinformed.

If you have any questions or queries on the EU itself, do not rely on our governments and its civil servants to explain things to you. Often there is lack of coordination between them and information is not being passed on to their departments, or ultimately to the citizens.

It will be best to do some research yourself or contact the EU and get active, don't take anything that is written in the press as being accurate. The media always have their own agenda. You can find answers yourself in www.europa.eu , or alternatively you may also contact you local MEP.

There are various other organizations that could help you in your research, like the European Movement and many others, active both in EU and non-EU states. If you want the EU to work for your interests, you must first understand how it works and secondly you need to get active and participate. When you are indifferent about the political situation in our continent, then you have absolutely no right to complain about whatever happens to your civil rights. 

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