The “disenfranchisement” of the European citizens

It seems that something will indeed go bust soon. The "threads of legitimacy of political decisions" in Europe are pulled "tightly enough to break, and things are squeaking and crunching everywhere," says European parliamentarian Lambsdorff. Many politicians and experts on Europe in the member states hold similar views. The German philosopher and avowed European Jürgen Habermas warns of a "disenfranchisement of European citizens." And the European Reflection Group, a team of academics and political thinkers chaired by Spain's Felipe González, is appealing to politicians in all countries, saying: "We will only overcome the challenges which lie ahead if all of us -politicians, citizens, employers and employees -- are able to pull together with a new common purpose defined by the needs of the current age. … In spite of all the EU's past achievements there is a worrying indifference, if not disenchantment, towards the European project. We can no longer ignore this challenge." Only very few citizens in Europe can comprehend what is happening to them. The Euro Group, the German-French crisis meetings, the G-20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the troika are making decisions about peace, freedom and prosperity, but who exactly voted for them? Who can even understand the reasoning behind the latest attempts to cope with the crisis? There is growing support on the continent - but not people support, only the elite wants’ it in fact - for González's view that only a united Europe, with politicians in Brussels with the power to get things done, can avert the next crisis, offset the economic and social imbalances within the EU and counter speculators on the financial markets. And it will only be possible to implement policies set by Brussels in the nations of the EU if it has a common, sustainable, democratic basis on the entire continent. Many see the crisis as an opportunity For Europe veteran Javier Solana, 69, it represents "the chance to make a great leap forward" -- the venture of bringing more democracy to Europe. This, says Solana, a former NATO secretary general and subsequent EU foreign policy chief, is the only way to achieve "true political integration." Solana describes how this can happen in his classes at Esade Geo, a private Madrid and Barcelona business school, and in lectures around the world. In the opinion of the man known worldwide for his three-day beard, this great leap can even work without

massive restructuring. Instead of erecting new buildings and installing new governments, Solana believes the EU should take a simpler approach, which he calls "legitimacy through action." The Crisis of Legitimacy All of Europe is stuck in a crisis of legitimacy. The democratic credibility of the European project was intact as long as it was successful, and as long as citizens could marvel at - or, like the Spaniards, benefit from -- the added value of the decisions being made above their heads. "Federalize their wallets and their hearts and minds will follow," said James Madison, the father of the American Constitution. These words also apply to the Old World. The democracy scholars of the 21st century call it "output legitimacy." It was easy to achieve legitimacy through action as long as things were constantly improving for everyone. But now, in the crisis, hardship prevails. "The checks made out for integration, solidarity and democracy by the political ruling class were only backed by output legitimacy," says Hauke Brunkhorst, a professor of sociology in the northern German city of Flensburg. The lack of that backing, he adds, means those checks "will invariably bounce with a large bang." If it wants to prevent such a bang -- and if it hopes to be sustainable -- the political class must avail itself of the classic tools of democracy, which academics like Brunkhorst call "input legitimacy." The input must come from citizens, from the bottom up, through elections as well as through discussions; in other words, the tedious business of forming the political will of the people. Both the Spanish and German constitutions see that activity as the reason for the existence of political parties. The most urgent thing, says Solana, is to create a "European public sphere." The political class must make an effort to win over citizens, because it can no longer spoil them in material terms. This is "legitimacy through action." The citizens, says Solana, must "go along with us." To ensure that they accept the great leap forward, political leaders must convince their nations. According to Solana, those who don't keep up will lose out. "If we are not intelligent enough to complete this integration, there will be a privileged economic relationship between the United States and China, and we'll be out," he warns. The Problem of “We the European People” But who is the "we"? The problem in conveying such messages to citizens lies in the fact that nobody feels that they are part of this "we." For German democracy scholar Brunkhorst, this is the greatest threat to Europe's survival. The governments, in his

view, will soon "be unable to explain to anyone in their countries why 'we' shouldn't simply allow the euro to fail." As long as Europe is being run by "the Germans," "the French" or "the Spanish," says Brunkhorst, no citizen will understand "that we, if we are to get by in the globalized world, stopped being the Germans, the Austrians, French or Dutch long ago, but in fact are the citizens of Europe." "We the people." These important words at the beginning of the roughly two hundred year-old Constitution of the United States have retained their power to this day. Based on this formula, according to the will of united citizens, a world power was founded in 1787, one that had liberated itself from the confines of traditional national ties. It was a new world without borders, a world power based on values, human rights and the "pursuit of happiness," or at least that is how it was conceived. "We the citizens" -- could this be the idea for a "United States of Europe?" Conclusion – hard facts The dream of a united Europe will remain vague as long as European governments try to promote integration by way of intergovernmental agreements. As long as Europe is shaped by national leaders, they will always focus exclusively, or at least primarily, on the people whose interests they are sworn to represent: their voters. This is the real drawback of all models that are based on increasingly close cooperation among European governments. Even former German Foreign Minister Joshcka Fischer's plan to bring together parliamentarians within a European group does not change the fact that they are ultimately answerable to voters at home. As long as Europe's democracies are organized and oriented on a national basis, citizens will never be able to look beyond the confines of their own countries.
Date: December 06. 2011

Mircea Halaciuga, Esq. 0040724581078 Financial news - Eastern Europe

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