Friday, September 14, 2007

The End Of Democracy In Europe

Perry Anderson, of UCLA, in a rather long piece about Europe, describes how the EU has drained democracy from European politics.

Democracy, he writes, has been replaced not with the politics of diplomacy, but a kind of unpolitical consensus:

The deadly conformism of EU summits, smugly celebrated by theorists of ‘consociational democracy’, as if this were anything other than a cartel of self-protective elites, closes the coffin of even real diplomacy, covering it with wreaths of bureaucratic piety. Nothing is left to move the popular will, as democratic participation and political imagination are each snuffed out.

Widespread and understandable indifference among Europeans has been the result. Voters can see their judgment and votes are irrelevant - and, worse, seen by the EU as distracting - to the shaping of policy.

In short, the EU is not merely passively undemocratic, it is actively anti-democratic.

Even avowed Europhiles have difficulty disguising their disgust at the way the EU moves to circumvent the expressed wishes of European voters. This has been especially obvious in the case of the European Constitution - a document resoundingly rejected by French and Dutch voters the other year, but now revivified, essentially unaltered, and up for ratification next year.

This obtuse self-satisfaction on the part of the EU's leaders is potentially dangerous, as any divorce between rulers and ruled has always been.

Anderson goes on to discuss how the public anti-Americanism of some European politicians masks collusion in torture of terrorist suspects and an indifference to the sufferings of European (German) citizens by such politicians as the unspeakable exhibitionist Joschka Fischer and Germany's current Foreign Minister, Walter Steinmeier. (Steinmeier actually refused a US offer to free an innocent German citizen wrongly imprisoned, the victim of mistaken identity.)

The politicians are often rewarded by public approval of their moral posturing and gushings. Their dangerous hidden moves are largely ignored.

It is another example of one of this blog's favourite themes - the unbridgable gulf between modern political speech in Europe and the reality of how Europe is ruled today. It's almost enough to make one want to do something about it. But the truly dangerous thing about the whole constitutional drift in Europe is that it is fatally boring to most people. It means power can be detached from the demos without sparking off anything much in the way of protest, beyond the efforts of the admirable EU Referendum bloggers, Christopher Booker and their ilk.

Link to Perry Anderson's article in the London Review of Books:
LRB | Perry Anderson: Depicting Europe