Tags: lisbon | eu | ireland

European Union Ignoring Public's Disdain for Integration

Monday, 24 Aug 2009 05:10 PM

By Herbert London

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For most Americans, who read the papers of record, the European Union (EU) appears to be a progressive alternative to American liberalism. But for those who look carefully the EU expresses undisguised contempt for its member states and particularly for the populations within those states.

The Irish government, which has scheduled an Oct. 2 referendum on the EU, has engaged in a pro-Lisbon Treaty propaganda campaign financed by the taxes of Irishmen. Yet it is interesting to note that not a word of the treaty has been altered from the last treaty vote, which was rejected by the Irish people. I guess in Ireland you keep voting until you get it right.

The people of France and the Netherlands haven’t been given a second chance even though the Lisbon Treaty is almost identical to the European Constitutional Treaty the citizens of these two nations rejected at the ballot box.

In fact, there hasn’t been a single popular demonstration in favor of European integration. European elitists, usually lacking popular support, employ legalistic devices to enforce their will on largely unwary populations. In its effort to increase the ostensible goal of efficiency, EU bureaucrats are attempting to harmonize activities across member states, even though the countries involved vary in their economies, histories, traditions, and constitutions.

Rather than rely on the will of the people seen through democratically elected governments, the EU is in the business of transferring power and authority to unelected institutions, e.g. the Brussels’ bureaucracy and the European Parliament.

Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty increases the voting power of the large member states, more than doubling Germany’s to 17 percent while reducing Ireland’s to below 1 percent. It also gives the EU the power to harmonize indirect taxes and to establish the procedures of EU law over national legislation, including national constitutions. And, most significantly, it would abolish the national veto in 21 policy areas thus all but eliminating the influence of national parliaments and public influence on decision-making. It is also instructive that the EU president would have effective authority over the electorates of the 27 member states.

For those who believe this is a model for the future, it is worth noting that the EU doesn’t even purport to be an organism that represents the European people. It is in theory and practice a gigantic bureaucracy designed to encourage efficiencies by eliminating the idiosyncratic features of national states. It is the post modern rationalist dream of an entity that harmonizes, alas homogenizes, human behavior on the European continent.

While there is value in the modest economic integration of the kind started in the 1950s with the European Coal and Steel community and perhaps there are investment efficiencies engendered with the introduction of the euro, the EU bureaucrats desire to impose rules and regulations across the board militates against democratic reforms.

Although EU advocates contend this integration has stabilized Europe fostering an unprecedented degree of peace and prosperity since the end of World War II, it is not obvious that the EU can account for this condition. Many factors went into the European resurgence including the Marshal Plan, NATO, free trade, and the American willingness to defend Europe against hostile influences.

If Europe slides into acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty, it will do so despite the will of its populations. The persistence of EU devotees might well wear down public resistance unless, of course, public opinion can be roused to form an opposition movement. The upcoming Irish vote could be a telltale sign of things to come. If the Irish reject the Lisbon Treaty a second time, they will not be rejecting forms of European cooperation, but rather a vision of bureaucratic control that ignores the European people and the unique histories of the member states.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of “Decade of Denial” (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001) and “America's Secular Challenge” (Encounter Books).

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