December 2000

EU democratic deficit lamented

On the eve of the EU summit in Nice, articles in the Finnish press are highlighting the shortcomings of democracy in the Union. The leading national daily Helsingin Sanomat (5 December 2000) headlines its article "People's power not celebrated in the EU summit". The article points out that twenty odd presidents and prime ministers will decide on division of power in the enlarging Union.

"This will take a few days. Preparing the decisions has been mainly in the hands of civil servants.

"In theory the agreements made by EU leaders or European Council are political. In practice they are important texts comparable to a constitution which forms the basis for reforming the basic treaties of the EU."

Helsingin Sanomat compares the decision-making process with changing constitutions in member countries. There the whole process takes years. In the EU, many important decisions are pushed through in a couple of days and nights.

"Even if preparatory work has taken a long time, last night's rush can change the situation dramatically. Horse trading and choice of negotiation tactics influence the proceedings greatly."

The question of each member country having a Commissioner is an example. The Finnish parliament has insisted that Finland wants to hold on to its seat in the Commission. It is possible, however, that this view will be forgotten if it is decided in Nice that some time in the future the Commissioner seats will be rotated.

In another article, Helsingin Sanomat (4 December 2000) quoted the Green MEP, Heidi Hautala, who has campaigned for more openness in the decision-making:

"Right now the EU is afraid that citizens will interfere with decision-making."

Hautala says that it is high time to define EU citizens' rights. She says that currently only states and companies have rights. Hautala, who is the leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, adds that the Charter of Rights is a revolutionary step. Even if the Nice summit only approved it as a ringing declaration, it contains the seeds for a federal state. Hautala also thinks that the basic treaties should be replaced by a constitution.

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