Worried about the democratic deficit? Then Vote Yes
Originally posted on Facebook
Those critical of the European Union often raise the question of the democratic deficit, meaning that decisions are made without reference to the people and without a sense of accountability. This is true to a certain extent in all democracies without an element of direct democracy, like the ballot initiatives of California. For example, the charge could at a push be levelled at the current Irish government, who are making decisions on circumstances that could not have been foreseen at the time of the 2007 general election, and it is almost certain that they would lose power at a general election held today. And in any state, policy is formulated to a large extent by the permanent government of civil servants.
Given the size of the European Union, a body of 27 countries, it is unsurprising that this has grown to the level that it has been raised as a concern. Among the many reforms of the Lisbon Treaty, there was a clear effort to address this. It is true at the moment that nothing from the EU becomes law without the approval of those who are accountable to the people. The Commission, whose members are appointed by the governments, proposes legislation. The Parliament, elected every five years, can review legislation, before the Council of Ministers, made up of the ministers across the EU, finally agree that a provision can be made law.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, after the Commission proposes legislation, national parliaments of the union will have powers of review. A number of one third of parliaments will have the power to require the Commission to review the legislation and if more than a half of parliaments raise an objection they will have the power to veto the legislation and prevent it going any further. Then, rather than the European Parliament having only a consultative role, it will have an equal role with the Council of Ministers in legislating.
So our elected representatives, both in the Dáil and Seanad and in the European Parliament will have a significantly increased voice in the process of EU law if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.
And this is before mentioning the Citizens’ Initiative, under which a million citizens across the Union would have the power to require the European Commission to consider a item of concern. This is a power for the people far greater than exists at a national level, where ordinary citizens have no control over the agenda at cabinet meetings.
People are right to have been concerned about the democratic deficit, it showed a healthy concern and desire for accountability. But it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge these steps that were made to address these issues, and those seriously concerned about this issue should vote Yes to ensure that these new measures are implemented.