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« No fairytale ending to my dream of being Scottish (or Farage's visit to Scotland) | Main | Open minded? Another health minister comes out for plain packaging »

Minister for Europe: economic recovery will not solve democratic deficit

Plain packaging was also mentioned by the Minister for Europe this week.

Unlike self-styled "liberal" Norman Lamb (see previous post), the Rt Hon David Lidington MP adopted a different tone.

Speaking in Berlin, his theme was democracy in Europe:

The democratic deficit in the EU is not a new problem. It is as old as the EEC itself. But the current economic crisis has accelerated an underlying trend. The latest Eurobarometer polling data on public opinion provides clear evidence of a fundamental lack of support for the EU across almost all Member States.

Trust in the EU has never been so low. It has fallen from a pre-crisis high of just over half of those surveyed to just a third last autumn. New survey data from Pew, issued this week, confirms the downward trend in support for the EU.

And for the first time since Eurobarometer started their surveys in 1978, more respondents across the EU were dissatisfied with the way democracy works in the EU than were satisfied.

But, you might ask, why does this matter?

It matters because stable democracies rely on citizens accepting the rules as effective and legitimate, and feeling like they have a stake in how decisions are made.

It matters because people feel that decisions affecting their lives are taken faraway, by unaccountable individuals.

In some countries we have seen the rise of protest parties and social unrest ...

Now, some people might argue that the loss of trust in the EU is a temporary blip and is linked to the current crisis.

My experience tells a different story. Economic recovery will not solve the democratic deficit.

Politicians and academics talk about principles – about subsidiarity and proportionality. Our citizens put this in more practical terms.

People question why the footwear and jewellery worn by hairdressers should be regulated at the European level.

Why they cannot determine shop opening hours locally in accordance with local traditions and practices.

Why it is that the EU needs to ban branding on cigarette packets or set quotas for women on company boards.

And they question why their local hospital or fire service no longer offers 24-hour cover due to judgments on working time rules made far away by the European Court of Justice.

In short, public dissatisfaction is not solely a consequence of the economic crisis, though that has of course emphasised the trend, but results from a longer-term and much broader sense that decisions at European level are remote from both citizens themselves and their interests.

At a time of great change, particularly for those in the Eurozone, trust in the EU is at a record low and public dissatisfaction at a record high. The EU is often seen as inefficient and out of touch with the real world. The ordinary European does not feel that his or her voice counts.

At last, a minister who 'gets it' and, better still, has decided to speak out.

You can read the full speech here.

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    Response: Oakley Australia
    unconscionable through this kind of constant fanning of the fire Because of the hilly ground plus the rapidly motorists,

Reader Comments (2)

How refreshing. Unfortunately there are far too many Norman Lamb's around for us to have much hope of liberty in the near future. Lamb is a typically illiberal Liberal Democrat. Do not be fooled by the name.

Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterIvan D

The logical continuation of his argument is that the 'democratic deficit' has been in existence ever since the EU was established. It is because of this 'deficit' that that the top brass in the EU are the new aristocrats. The New Aristocrats can play one country off against another. They can also make monetary threats, as occurred in Cyprus, without check. What next? Invasion of member states which fail to conform?
It is very obvious that the Prime Minister of the UK has no power to dislodge the New Aristocrats - nor has the President of France, or the Chancellor of Germany. Nor is it obvious that they wish to (as opposed to joining the New Aristocracy).
There is only one real answer, which is that the UK must insist that the 'competencies' of the EU should be cut back drastically or the UK leaves the EU. If the UK left the EU, then a huge slice of the military might of the EU would be lost to the EU. Don't forget that the UK is the only state in the EU (apart from France) which has REAL military might. Also, we must bear in mind that we IMPORT more from the EU than we EXPORT to the EU. Thus, the states of the EU have more to lose. That is, we still have great trade relationships with the rest of the world outside the EU.

If you think a little more deeply, then the EU 'problem' resolves itself into a simple question: "Do our political leaders see themselves as part of the 'New Aristocracy' (in which case they will fiddle and faff around the edges), or will they see themselves as champions of both the People of the UK and the People of other European States (in which case, they will drastically cut back and repeal many of the 'directives')?
The happenings in Cyprus have been an eye-opener. As a member of the EU, how did it come to pass that Cyprus became a repository for Russian funds earning interest way above the norm? What need did Cyprus have for such high-interest earning funds? Further, is it not true that Greece became highly indebted precisely because it was encouraged to borrow vast amount of money BY THE EU to finance white elephants?

The answer is to slash the EU.

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 3:05 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

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