Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Regulatory Legitimacy for Commission? We think not...

Before further investigation of the merits of proposals by the Commission to regulate "interest representation" ("lobbying" is sooooooo 20th Century) with the aim of greater transparency, it is worth examining the Commission's credentials and legitimacy on the topic.

There is no doubt that increased transparency would be a good thing for European governmental institutions (indeed, government institutions the world over), from the Commission on down. Perhaps the Commission would be on more soild ground regulating the speech and activities of others were itself more transparent. Indeed, many member states, particularly a number of the more recent entrants from Eastern Europe that perhaps having gained democratic government more recently seem to value it more highly, have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency evidenced by the Commission and other institutions in their decision making. Yet, the Commission is colluding with the Member States to substantially diminish transparency and democracy in the EU with regard to ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, a thinly veiled retooling of the EU Constitution that was defeated by popular referendum a scant few years ago.

While clearly an advocacy position, the following short presentation by Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde (in English) on Commission-Member State collusion vis-a-vis ratification is compelling:


With the bumbling Tories seeking legislation today that would require a referendum on the Treaty in the UK, the Lib-Dems displaying typical waffle, and Gordon Brown's government demonstrating the Euro-manipulation and disdain for the popular will that has characterized New Labour for the last decade, there is considerable popular campaigning by those who want such a referendum:


And of particular interest to public affairs professionals is the adoption of tactics by the pro-referendum movement stolen straight from Greenpeace's own very effective stunt-book. Two men from a group calling itself "We are Change" and affiliated with the "I Want a Referendum" group, last night scaled a crane above the Houses of Parliament unfurling banners demanding a referendum:


There is no indication that Brown intends to reverse opposition to a UK referendum despite results of a so-called "mini-referendum" undertaken in key Parliamentary constituencies (clever that!) that claim to show 88% popular support for a referendum.

BP: "Hah! What ye sow, so shall ye reap! Bully for the protesters. Let the demagogues and populists get a taste of their own poison and remember why representative government was originally designed to be limited in scope to those responsible enough to make policy. When you raise the rabble, be aware that the rabble may raize your house!"

BH: "It is difficult to understand what the anti-Lisbon Treaty people are after. Are they the unwitting pawns of the narrow-minded Euro-sceptics who fail to understand the need for greater integration and stream-lined decision making in the EU. Or, are they misguided democrats so dispirited by the corporatist nature of politics today that they can no longer differentiate between the democratic process of government (ratification by the elected legislature is a democratic process afterall) and its suborning by special interest groups that so often stifle democracy in aid of business interests?"

YGM: Those of the rational and democratic bent would seem to find it difficult to argue against ratification by referendum. But then, the fact that there is apparently not a single readily readable version of the Treaty available to the public would of course make a reasoned decision on the issue somewhat difficult. On balance, it would appear that the Commission's legitimacy as a transparent and democratic institution is open to further question...

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