Monday, 30 June 2008

Citizens and EU law - The real world

There is an emerging body of EU law for Europeans who travel, move, live, love, work, parent, retire or divorce across borders within the European Union. There are still lacunae, but the application, the realities on the ground, are the main focus of the report Alain Lamassoure MEP has prepared for president Nicolas Sarkozy.

‘Le citoyen et l’application du droit communautaire – Rapport au Président de la République’ (8 June 2008; 188 pages) looks at the problems of EU citizens face outside their country of origin, but inside the European Union. Cross-border families are one example.

The report is posted on a number of web pages. One of them is Toute l’Europe:

The perspective is French: EU citizens living in France and French citizens in other EU countries. But Lamassoure uses materials of general applicability, and he suggests that France uses its Council presidency to propose concrete measures to ameliorate the situation of cross-border persons and to inspire other EU member states to take a closer look at their laws and practices.

Taking into account how much corporations are at the centre of textbooks on European Community law, Lamassoure’s report is a valuable source for students and researchers of European law and politics, as well as migrant EU citizens.

Lamassoure looks at the human side of European integration.

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty: If conciliation fails

The striking thing about the interview with Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, as reported in my 28 June 2008 blog post ‘EU: Unable to make decisions’, was his conciliatory tone. The Irish should not be bullied. Failing ratification, negotiations are needed to solve the crisis for both Ireland and the European Union.

But there is always the risk of failure. Different alternatives need careful thought. Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Münchau has been looking at various scenarios in his articles, with the latest addition ‘The options for a Europe without a script’, published 29 June 2008 on

It is natural that political leaders are loath to discuss unpleasant truths as long as there is some hope of avoiding trouble, but it is necessary that free-thinking spirits offer the public realistic options.

According to Münchau we are not at breakdown point yet, but we have to consider the possibility that the Irish may not ratify the Lisbon Treaty in the end.

To continue with the Nice Treaty is out of the question, so Münchau supposes that the ratifiers find a way to enforce the Lisbon Treaty without some. He mentions the options of offering the non-ratifiers a chance to quit, various forms of intensified cooperation among integrationist countries and a regrouping under a new organisation.


If negotiations fail, Europe faces the stark choice between immobility and action by a narrower membership. Here I agree with Münchau.

But a more effective union would further lessen the democratic legitimacy and accountability of the European project and harden the popular resistance, if not coupled with profound democratic reform. It is time for the European leaders to face up to the democratic requirements of the 21st century.

Europe cannot preach to the world what it doesn’t practice itself.

Ralf Grahn

European integration: Re-birth without democracy?

Constantinos Simitis, the former prime minister of Greece, takes a long view on European integration in his Project Syndicate article ‘The Inevitable Re-Birth of European Integration’:

Since the Project Syndicate demands permission to reprint, I am going to assume that the reader turns to the original article and I move straight to my commentary.

Simitis convincingly lays out the weaknesses of the EU to formulate and to advance policies as well as to define itself in the international system. His long term view that the dimension of political problems will require solid forms of cooperation, seems well founded.

I agree with his view on the need for the Lisbon Treaty reforms as means to improve the European Union.

When the member of the Action Committee on European Democracy (ACED) sees the insufficient democratic legitimacy as an obstacle to change, I agree.

But when Simitis alleges off-hand that democracy in the EU cannot be guaranteed by the models that apply in the member states, and when he offers the Lisbon Treaty provisions on democracy plus national forums for debate as substitutes for EU level democracy, I am saddened by his lack of vision and his willingness to perpetuate the chasm between EU citizens and political leaders.

Shouldn’t the Action Committee on European Democracy be a force for democracy at the European level?

Ralf Grahn

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Lisbon Treaty implementation

According to a memorandum the Finnish government’s EU Committee dealt with 22 February 2008, ’Lissabonin sopimuksen täytäntöönpanon valmistelu’ (Preparatory work on the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty), the Slovenian Council presidency had presented a memorandum on the work programme concerning Lisbon Treaty implementation at the Coreper (permanent representatives) meeting 17 January 2008.

Later the Finnish government’s EU Committee has dealt with the implementation of institutional questions pertaining to the Lisbon Treaty 9 May 2008, ‘Suomen kantoja Lissabonin sopimuksen täytäntöönpanoon liittyvistä keskeisistä toimielinkysymyksistä’ (Finnish positions on main institutional questions relating to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty).

These memoranda, 18 pages in all, have been in the public domain, both times with accompanying press releases in three languages for the general public.


This can be contrasted with my e-mail to the Slovenian presidency requesting the already leaked first presidency memorandum listing the matters to discuss. I received neither answer nor paper.

It would have been convenient to work with the English version, instead of comparing the Finnish memoranda it with the latest presidency update in English.


The latest Council update (and perhaps the only one in English in the public domain) I know of is the following:

The Slovenian presidency of the EU Council presented the ’Progress report from the Presidency to the European Council – Preparatory work in view of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty’, dated 13 June 2008, to the European Council (document 10650/08):

Whereas the original presidency paper listed 33 discussion points, the 12 plus 2 pages on the state of play summarise 14 substantive points.

I am just going to signal the questions mentioned to interested readers:

1 Citizens’ initiative
2 Data protection
3 Advocates-General
4 Consultative panel for nomination of judges
5 Delegated and implementing acts
6 Transition to co-decision
7 Committee structure in the area of justice and home affairs
8 Budget for 2009
9 Budget procedure
10 Programming (Council and presidencies)
11 Rules of procedure of European Council and Council
12 European External Action Service
13 Chairmanship of preparatory bodies in the area of external relations
14 Issues relating to the General Affairs Council

Roughly, the questions could be sorted into two groups. There are questions, where transitional arrangements are needed, and there are questions in need of more exact implementing measures.

Students and researchers interested in the questions listed above may find a few titbits, but generally the comments can be described as oblique, in true Council fashion.

From the outset the Slovenian presidency was intent on doing a bit of technical groundwork, with the political decisions to be taken during the French Council presidency starting 1 July 2008. Now it is unclear if and when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force and for how long the Nice Treaty remains in force. These factors complicate life for the European Union and especially France at the head of the Council.

Ralf Grahn

EU elites – Who are they?

All the masters of strategy from Sun Tzu onwards have underlined the crucial importance of knowing your enemy. In my continuing effort to guide anti-EU campaigners towards less nebulous and more stringent thinking, the time has come to look at their favourite enemy, the ‘EU elite(s)’.

First, we have to deconstruct the concept. Who are the ‘EU elites’?

Here is my attempt:

1) We have the national heads of state or government (meeting in the European Council).

2) Then we have the national government ministers (who convene in different Council configurations) and the Council machinery with its different functions (negotiating, legislating, executing, administering, monitoring).

3) The national parliaments, elected by the citizens, each hold their own government accountable for its share in EU dealings and they hold the keys to ratification of the ground rules (treaties), constituting the dominant part of the (in my view contrived) double legitimacy of the European Union.

4) The European Parliament, directly elected by the EU citizens, at the present time co-legislator, along with the Council in most of the matters pertaining to the ‘Community pillar, but effectively excluded from the crucial decisions (setting the ground rules, electing the government, setting the main course of policies, levying taxes, deciding on the long term budget, making the fundamental decisions on foreign, security and defence policy, as well as parts of justice and home affairs and agricultural policy to name a few significant sectoral deficiencies).

5) The European Commission, with rights to propose legislation in ‘Community’ matters and with powers to execute and administer these (civil service), subject to varying degrees of Council and EP monitoring. The Commission is excluded from roughly the same policy areas as the European Parliament, with the notable exception that it executes the common agricultural policy, as defined by the Council (member states).

6) The European Court of Justice, which interprets the Treaty establishing the European Community and the secondary legislation based on it (since the Court is excluded from much of the Treaty on European Union).


The Court of Justice has undoubtedly advanced the aims of the treaties by landmark rulings on voids and interpretative difficulties, but it has also set limits to community action. On balance, the Court has acted according to the objectives of the treaties, sometimes beyond a literal interpretation.

The Lisbon Treaty proposes measures concerning the appointment of judges, who at the present time are effectively appointed by their respective governments, but I fail to see the merits of the anti-EU critique of ‘unelected judges’ or any constructive alternatives.

If ‘unelected judges’ are bad, how should the judges be elected? It is not enough to smear; clean-up measures should be offered.


The Commission has the (near) monopoly of proposals in its given fields of activity, and it executes the policies delegated to it under the watchful eye of the Council (and the European Parliament), but the Commission does not rule Europe.

From reading some of the more uneducated blogs, one could get the impression that the Commission is the lawmaker of the European Union.

Is there a viable alternative to a fairly objective guardian of the treaty provisions on the internal market, competition, external trade and other common policy areas? What would it be?


The directly elected European Parliament is part equal legislator, part minor partner, in community matters. The Lisbon Treaty would extend the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision), but stil leave crucial areas of EU matters outside effective parliamentary scrutiny.

As I see it, the problem is not overwhelming EP power, but its severe limitations. EU level democratic legitimacy and accountability require profound reform to give the citizens of the European Union the decisive powers: to elect and to replace the officeholders and to set the course for the EU in all matters within its competence.

This means that the EU would get a real executive (government), responsible to the European Parliament (ultimately with two chambers).

The new European Union would be approved by a pan-EU referendum, requiring a double majority, of citizens and states.

The states where the populations vote against their own electoral powers and a more effective union, would remain outside the new structures, at their own level of comfort and factual incompetence (dressed up as sovereignty).


But today, the dominant EU players are the first three, mentioned above: the national leaders, the national governments and the national parliaments, as well as their creatures, the European Council and the Council.

Are these really ‘EU elites’, when in reality they are national or intergovernmental (at the expense of citizens’ more direct influence)?

The concept, as in use by anti-EU propagandists, seems to be either a fallacy or an exercise in disinformation.

The modest Treaty of Lisbon would do little to change that. More reform is needed, not less.

Ralf Grahn

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Anti-EU by any other name

By the way, I have wondered at the widespread acceptance of the ‘Euroscepticism’ as the label people use, whose attitude reveals nothing sceptic. No doubts, no uncertainty, no open minds. After reading a lot of these outpourings, I am beginning to think that the ‘Eurosceptic’ in search of truths has yet to be born.

Thus, the label is woolly and misleading. Let’s call a spade a spade.

The early constitutional history of the United States saw the debate between Federalists and anti-Federalists. Let people who identify with Europe be called Europeans, pro-Europeans or pro-EU, and let the people who want to wreck the European Union be called by the most objective term available: anti-EU.

(Some of them, for reasons yet to be verified, deny that they are anti-Europeans. They are only vehemently against Europe’s common institutions and manifestations)


Another healthy distinction would be to see EU detractors clearly define what they are against (if a viable programme for anything proves too demanding).

Do they want to dismember the European Union completely, or would they be content to see their own country secede from the EU?

If they have nothing against the vast majority of Europeans deepening European integration, these campaigners could redirect their energies towards secession. With a sharper focus they could perhaps improve their chances of success.

Actually, if their ideals are the ‘free nations of Europe’, why not let the other free nations decide for themselves on cooperation and common action, without insult or injury?

Traders (and nations of shopkeepers) want to keep their customers happy and engage in profitable relations with their providers, don’t they?

Why cause a lot of aggravation, if they only want to live happily ever after behind their moat?

Ralf Grahn

Populist Euroscepticism

Fabian Guy Neuner has started a blog, Embracing the Union, with the aim to face up to the destructive power of populist Euroscepticism. The address of Embracing the Union is:

Neuner’s first post ‘Now is the time! Lessons from Dublin and Vienna’ (26 June 2008) discusses the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. Neuner sees the ‘no’ vote in Ireland as a victory for targeted misinformation which uses people’s fears to mobilise the masses.

On the same day as the first post, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) leadership caved in to populist pressure by proclaiming that they would put further treaty ratifications to a plebiscite. In Neuner’s view, populism nurtured by Euroscepticism has the power to make leaders drop their commitment to European integration in order to remain in power (or at least increase their chances of doing so).

Neuner sets himself the objective of critically discussing the EU’s democratic credentials and discrediting the myths that permeate the debate on Europe.


It is always a pleasure to see a new critical and constructive Euroblog in English. I wish Neuner good luck in his endeavour and I look forward to his following posts.

Ralf Grahn

EU: Unable to make decisions

The English blogosphere has addressed the latest public statements by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing with its customary narrow outlook, missing both his analysis and his suggestions for the future of the European Union.

Here are a few missing links from the L’Express interview with the former chairman of the European Convention (26 June 2008), but first a link to the whole interview, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing : « Il faut adopter le traité de Lisbonne »

Giscard d’Estaing’s analysis is that the institutional life has paralysed Europe for a long time. The problem is not what the European Union decides, but the fact that it does not reach decisions. Europe lacks true leadership, although Angela Merkel appears to be a genuine political leader in Europe.

The 27 leaders who convene four times annually are incapable of making real decisions.

According to Giscard d’Estaing the key to change is democratic. There is a need for responsible actors and the great decisions have to be taken democratically. Evidently this means qualified majority voting instead of unanimity.

The Lisbon Treaty has been ratified by 19 states, which represent 70 per cent of the population of the European Union.

One can deplore the decision of the Irish, who have said that the Lisbon Treaty does not suit them, although it responds to many of their demands.

Europe should handle only the questions for which our countries are too small. International trade, the money, competition, the great environmental problems, the defence of the European continent, these are for Europe. The rest is not!

It is up to the Irish government to think about a possible re-vote. The Irish are uneasy pro-Europeans. They should be reassured, not bullied. (If the Ireland does not ratify the Lisbon Treaty) negotiations are needed with the aim to let the other countries approve the treaty and give Ireland a special status, if that is what they want. It would be a British style development.

The situation has to be solved. The Irish can refuse to apply the Lisbon Treaty, but they can not take the rest of the Europeans hostage.

The coming European elections should look to the future. Should the European Union be a political entity defined by its institutions? Should enlargement continue, or is a pause called for? Should the powers of the EU be extended or (the present ones) respected? I hope that the citizens vote in June on these questions, because the future of 500 million people can not be built on diplomatic negotiations. We do not live in the times of the Holy Alliance anymore.


Readers of English anti-EU blogs tend to get a skewed picture of continental discourse on European integration. Learning languages and finding original sources offer independent means of understanding the real European Union better, both its merits and its shortcomings.

Enlightened citizens make for better politics.

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty: Rejection and impotence

Renaud Dehousse offers a French view on the Irish ’no’ vote concerning the Treaty of Lisbon. The Telos article « Europe : un non de trop » (Telos, 17 June 2008) analyses the Irish referendum result, comments on the suitability of referenda, states that Europe has reached the limits of reform under unanimity rules and concludes that the willing states have to find the means to realise their projects without being held back by the partisans of ‘status quo’:

Since Telos shows its free academic spirit by prohibiting all reprinting, I will leave the rest to the readers.

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty: Reasons for ratification

Bartolus of the excellent EU Law Blog commented on the European Council conclusions after the Irish ’no’ vote:

‘As you can see from the “conclusions”, the result was well, err, inconclusive.’

Go to the post ‘Lisbon Treaty and European Council’ (21 June 2008), with the conclusions:

‘Students, academics, practitioners and anyone else who may be interested’ in the European Union is often left to find out the thinking behind and assessments of Council outcomes from independent sources.

Carl Fredrik Bergström, from Sieps (the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies), wrote his assessment before the European Council meeting (16 June 2008), but ‘Vad händer med Lissabonfördraget efter irländarnas nej?’ (What happens to the Lisbon Treaty after the Irish no?) sheds some light on post-referendum reasoning:

Bergström notes the formal stipulation of Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union and the possible conclusion to scrap the Treaty of Lisbon. However, such a conclusion would probably be too hasty, on two counts.

First, all the EU member states’ governments have seen the great need for amendments and they all support the amendments agreed in the Treaty of Lisbon. The problems do not disappear even if the Irish vote ‘no’.

Second, 800,000 Irish ‘no’ voters do not prove that the solutions agreed between the governments are bad or unwanted. On the contrary, the Lisbon Treaty can probably count on the support of national parliaments representing almost 500 million citizens.

It is reasonable to expect the remaining national parliaments to continue their ratification processes. Bergström then distinguishes between the situation where Ireland alone has rejected the Lisbon Treaty (and others move ahead, in one way or another) or if others join them (domino effect).

Bergström offers a preliminary outline of alternative solutions, in three batches:

1) Amendments without a new treaty.

2) Amendments or ‘adaptations’ in the connection of the next enlargement. New Irish position needed.

3) Later amendments (including those with deferred implementation according to the Lisbon Treaty). New Irish position needed.

Bergström’s batches sketch alternatives and outline thinking. A detailed analysis of different alternatives is offered by professor Steve Peers (Statewatch), mentioned in the 27 June 2008 post ‘Lisbon Treaty: Legal analysis of ratification, implementation and impact of non-ratification’:


The needs for EU reform have disappeared nowhere. States unwilling or unable to keep pace should actively search for solutions within their comfort zone and let the rest accomplish real EU reform.

Ralf Grahn

Friday, 27 June 2008

Lisbon Treaty: Legal analysis of ratification, implementation and impact of non-ratification

Professor Steve Peers, of the University of Essex, has written a legal analysis of the situation following the Irish ‘no’ vote on the EU Treaty of Lisbon.

The paper looks, in great clarity, at three main questions, with detailed potential variations:

1) Can the Treaty of Lisbon still be ratified?

2) Can the Lisbon treaty be implemented in practice, if it is not ratified?

3) What would be the impact of non-ratification of the Lisbon Treaty upon the European Union?

The analysis is recommended for everyone interested in the various options discussed in earnest since the outcome of the referendum in Ireland. ‘Can the Treaty of Lisbon be ratified or implemented? A legal analysis’, by Steve Peers (19 June 2008; 15 pages, pdf), can be accessed at the Statewatch web pages:


The conclusions are legal, not political, but they form the basis for coming political decisions.

The details are best left to the reader, so I will make just a few short remarks.

Roughly, the new offices and improved decision-making procedures are stalled in the event of non-ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.

If push came to shove, the member states can be seen to have an implied right to withdraw from the union (in order to establish a new one). Here, an additional discussion of the main theme of EU integration, ever closer union, with regard to the ‘clausula rebus sic stantibus’ would have been welcome, with regard to member states frustrated in their attempts to advance.

Legally, the European Union could expand (but is it feasible politically?).

If there is no new treaty in time (for the European elections 2009), two old ghosts of the Treaty of Nice are worthy of notice. The number of Commission members has to be cut and the number of MEPs would be 732, instead of 751. In both cases, time is running (out).

An interesting promise to look forward to: A detailed Statewatch analysis with Proposals for greater openness, transparency and democracy in the EU (forthcoming).

Ralf Grahn

EU: Unanimity curse – The road ahead

Carlos Closa analyses the crucial unanimity rule concerning the ratification of EU treaties in an article called ‘Tras Irlanda: referendum y unanimidad’ (After Ireland: referendum and unanimity). The article (16 June 2008) is available on the web pages of the Real Instituto Elcano:

The Irish referendum result means the start of a new period of uncertainty with regard to European integration. Even more questionable than the referendum is the requirement of unanimous ratification by all member states of every treaty reform in a union as large and heterogeneous as the existing one.

Closa’s critique is founded on four reasons against unanimity:

1) It violates the equality of the parties.

2) The chances of any success diminish enormously.

3) The democratic principle is perverted.

4) The decision of one saddle the rest with the costs (externalisation).

Closa’s conclusion is that unanimity is an inadequate procedure for treaty reform. He acknowledges the taboo character of the subject, but he suggests an isolated reform of Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.


Closa’s critique of the unanimity rule is well founded. Since the publication of the article, the Irish referendum has precipitated tendencies to unravel the Treaty of Lisbon, unanimously agreed by all member states’ governments as late as last December.

By now, revisionist voices have been heard in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Poland, not to mention Ireland. The United Kingdom seems to have tied its ratification to ultimate approval by Ireland (and thus, all 27 member states). Further dismantling can not be excluded.

Even more than at the time of Closa’s writing, the European Union stands at a crossroads. Institutional and democratic reform is achievable only among some of the member states. A choice has to be made between the quality of integration and the quantity of participants.

A two union solution seems to be the only alternative to gridlock. The advanced, political union would be based on democratic ground rules and effective decision-making. The old union would have to be accommodated somewhere along the lines of the European Economic Area, the European Community or the EU mark Nice.

One-speed Europe is none-speed Europe.

It is time to move ahead to give “old Europe” and “new Europe” a new connotation.

Ralf Grahn

EU: Let the people speak!

After the Irish ’no’ vote, Jean Dominique Giuliani acknowledges that the European Union has a problem with its population. The chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation puts forward his proposal to avoid the crisis in a web article titled ‘If the people say no – let the people speak!’:–-let-the-people-speak-.html

The European Union must now show that it is possible to respect national identity and yet build a supranational democracy. Giuliani proposes allied national lists to put forward their candidates for the Commission president in the European elections 2009 and a simultaneous referendum on the choice of a president for the European Council.


I have supposed, even without the Treaty of Lisbon in force, that the main European level parties are going to put forward their candidates for president of the European Commission. Even under the Treaty of Nice, nothing prevents the European Council to act in accordance with the election result.

The president of the European Council is, in my view, a trickier proposition.

First of all, the semi-permanent president of the meetings of heads of state or government is a creation of the Lisbon Treaty. If the amending treaty is still in tatters ahead of the European Parliament elections, there is no post to fill (immediately).

Second, even with the Lisbon Treaty in force, every move to strengthen the role of the intergovernmental branch of the European Union tends to overshadow the role of the European Parliament and the European Commission, potentially closer to reforms for democratic legitimacy and accountability. Thus, the best option would be to let the Commission president chair the meetings of the European Council, as proposed by the ‘Who do I call?’ campaign:

If the member states refuse to combine the posts, they should at least see to fair and transparent procedures, with open nominations, public debate and transparent decision-making.


The merit of Giuliani’s analysis is the acknowledgement that the EU needs some democratic reform.

Sadly lacking in Giuliani’s editorial is the wholehearted endorsement of EU level democracy. Instead, his proposals are selective sops aimed at appeasing an increasingly hostile population.

Far from enough, Giuliani’s Europe would still have a problem with its population.

Only wholesale EU level democracy can give the necessary European project the legitimacy and accountability it needs.

Ralf Grahn

Thursday, 26 June 2008

European Political Union

Instead of the outdated model, where national interests take the common good hostage, Stefan Collignon and Christian Paul suggest addressing the core problem of democracy by creating a European Political Union.

Their article ‘It’s democracy, stupid!’ (17 June 2008) proposes that the next European Parliament, elected in 2009, elaborates a Constitution for the European Political Union to set up a government for the administration of European common goods.

It would be a limited government, in charge of only those public goods that affect all European citizens together. This government, democratically elected by and accountable to the European Parliament, would mean that citizens obtain the right to choose policy directions when they elect their representatives.

The existing economic union would be maintained for member states not willing to participate in political deepening. The European Political Union would be a coalition of the willing.

The article can be found at:


Collignon and Paul assess the needs and set out their proposals in line with what this blog argues.

They want to make the next European Parliament into a constituent assembly. This is one way to achieve the package this blog has proposed: to combine the Lisbon Treaty with a pledge by the European Council to institute democratic legitimacy and accountability at the EU level, among a coalition of willing states.

Read and reflect.

Ralf Grahn

EU: How many humiliations?

Our interlocutor, the Tap Blog, has made a first venture into the world after the imagined European Union collapse. Their vision is a Europe of Nations, in ‘The World Needs Europe’s Nations, Not The EU’ (26 June 2008):


It sounds nice and cosy, but how on earth are the European nation states going to prosper on their own in a harsh world, when they fail to get their act together under the current (and proposed) veto-enabling rules?

Russia has been picking of the EU countries at will, to the extent that it seems to be sorry for their present state of disarray. On the other hand, the EU’s possibilities to negotiate have been blocked by repeated national vetoes.

For a realistic assessment of the EU countries’ predicament, read the summary on EU–Russia relations by Robert Amsterdam ‘A Broken Europe Can’t Negotiate with Moscow’ (25 June 2008):

For a realist assessment of the challenges for Europe, I repeat my recommendation to read the blog by James Rogers, Global Power Europe:


Squabbling with each other and vetoing away their future, the EU member states are in for a lot of humiliations on the international scene.

Most of the time, they can, of course, cobble together a statement deploring the situation …

The Lisbon Treaty would improve the internal efficiency of the European Union’s common foreign and security policy, but the real world effectiveness of its policies would still be hostage to the ‘liberum veto’.

In other words, the proposed improvements are too little, too late.

The European leaders will the good outcomes, but they refuse the means to achieve them.


But to propose a Europe of Nations – cosy as it sounds – is taking the wrong turn altogether, as long as there is no convincing explanation of how these proud nations would do better completely on their own or with an added dose of intergovernmental inefficiency.

The Tap Blog, in my humble opinion, suffers from one fundamental flaw. Its object of worship is the nation state.

My yardstick is the interest of the EU citizen. From two main angles: security and prosperity.

We already have our nations, and they are not going to disappear. But we need the team effort called the European Union, indeed a much improved EU, not only willing, but able to defend our common interests.

How many humiliations have to be endured before we get what we need?

Ralf Grahn

Vote and advance!

The chairman of the think-tank Notre Europe, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, makes an interesting – and true – observation of the history of European integration. France has been the determining factor. When France has put the brakes on, to preserve its veto, the European communities have stalled, often leading to severe crises. When France has agreed to effective decision-making, the European project has advanced and the common good has been given a firmer footing.

In other words, France has effectively regulated progress.

Padoa-Schioppas article ‘Président Sarkozy, faites voter !’ can be found in Le Monde (26 June 2008) :

In addition to his interesting analysis, the chairman of the think-tank founded by Jacques Delors issues an impassioned plea to France to use the six months of its Council presidency to become, once again, the engine of the European Union. Key to this is not to accept blocking vetoes, but to vote, to decide and to progress. The gist of Padoa-Schioppa’s plea can be read in the concluding paragraph of the article:

« La France a entre ses mains les clés pour libérer l'horizon. La présidence de l'Union représente une occasion unique qu'elle ne doit pas rater. Les débats sur le bilan de santé de la PAC, la politique d'immigration et l'énergie s'y prêteraient à merveille. Dès lors, ma recommandation centrale à la future présidence française tient en deux mots : n'acceptez pas le blocage par le veto, n'acceptez pas de retarder une décision pour attendre tout le monde, "faites voter !" La France démontrera ainsi sa capacité à redevenir le moteur d'une Europe en mouvement. »


Padoa-Schioppa is right in his long term analysis of France’s often contradictory role as perceived engine of the European project, but persistently intergovernmentalist in practice, the phenomenon I have branded the “French paradox”.

He is also correct in pointing out the crucial factor between unanimity leading to minimalist solutions and qualified majority voting opening up vistas for the common good of the citizens of the European Union.

President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have the requisite amount of ambition. But has he the courage needed to act?

Ralf Grahn

The Tap Blog plans future after EU crash

The Tap Blog, which persists in calling anti-EU forces eurosceptics, is mulling over a positive programme after the European Union crashes.

Read ‘What Will Replace The EU?’ (25 June 2008):

Possibly, a crash of the EU is as much of a pipe-dream as a democratic union, but in my opinion it would be a good thing if there were clear visions of the future in both camps.

Too many of the anti-EU blogs are way too careless with facts and generous with distortions, whereas the Tap Blog distinguishes itself by better writing and something that looks like a real quest for alternatives.

As I see it, the main challenge for the ones who hope for an era after the European Union is to envision how it would enhance the security and prosperity of Europeans in a globalising world.


Traditional international organisations, built on intergovernmental cooperation, have usually shown little ability to achieve results.

On their own, even the bigger European nations are becoming small fry among the emerging powers.

NATO is an important transatlantic link, but it is primarily an alliance for military defence. Security is a much wider concept, and somehow interests like negotiating clout and energy security would require credible arrangements.

Even free trade needs common rules and enforcement, more closely knit than possible under WTO agreements.


I hope that the Tap Blog and its friends rise to the challenge. Like Libertas said, it is easy to oppose. The hard part is to create a better future, or even a vision of one.

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sweden continues Lisbon Treaty ratification preparation

The EU information of the Swedish parliament (Riksdagen) confirms that the preparation for Lisbon Treaty ratification continues in other member states (including Sweden). The press release with the headline ‘Irländskt nej stoppar inte svensk riksdagsbehandling’ (Irish no does not stop Swedish parliamentary procedure) was issued 25 June 2008 following a meeting where prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt reported on the European Council meeting to the EU committee of the parliament.

As yet, the Swedish government has not sent its ratification bill to the parliament, although the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) gave the draft a green light regarding constitutional issues.

According to the same press release, Reinfeldt sees the EU treaty and enlargement as two separate issues.

Ralf Grahn


Sveriges riksdag, EU-upplysningen: Irländskt nej stoppar inte svensk riksdagsbehandling (2008-06-25)

Lisbon Treaty: Summit analysis

The European Policy Centre (EPC) has given its assessment of the June 2008 European Council. ‘Post-Summit Analysis: A time to heal’, dated 23 June 2008, is available at:

Much of the compact four pages are dedicated to the Treaty of Lisbon, because the Irish referendum No overshadowed many important subjects at the European Council.

Here are few of the observations:

The EPC paper notes that 76 per cent of the Irish No voters thought that rejecting the Lisbon Treaty would allow Ireland to renegotiate it from scratch and from a stronger position “an option now explicitly excluded by its EU partners”.

The EPC remarks that the referendum result has highlighted once again a fundamental problem for the EU: while policies must increasingly be adopted above the national level (by the Union itself, as well as other multilateral bodies) to be effective, politics still operates at the national (or even sub-national) level – thus creating recurrent short-circuits and feedback effects.

Therefore the EPC draws the conclusion that if a pragmatic solution is found to ‘fix’ Lisbon, it will then probably be necessary to consider how to involve the citizens in both EU politics and policies more credibly, starting with the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament. Otherwise, anti-EU populism is likely to take root all over the Union and increasingly affect the functioning of institutions and policies – with unpredictable consequences.


The EPC’s endorsement of democratic EU reform concurs with the position of this blog, although it would be better to pledge the reform essentials during the ratification of the substance of the Lisbon Treaty and in time for the second referendum, should Ireland want to arrange one.

EU citizens choosing their leaders and setting the course, these are the needed reforms, more important than the Lisbon Treaty.

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty rescue operation

Daniel Gros and Sebastian Kurpas of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) have looked at the options for Europe after the Irish No vote. CEPS Policy brief No. 163 (June 2008) is available at:

‘What next? How to save the Treaty of Lisbon’ starts with an assessment of different options under debate. These are:

1. Abandon the Treaty of Lisbon and continue with the Treaty of Nice

2. Reopening negotiations on a new Treaty

3. Increased efforts on flexible integration

4. Implementation of those elements in the Treaty of Lisbon that do not require ratification

5. Temporary withdrawal of Ireland from the EU

6. Continuing the ratification process followed by a second Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon

Gros and Kurpas then present what they call a feasible, legal and fair way ahead. Their Plan B proposes ratifying the consolidated treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon. This would entail a speedy re-ratification by the member states that already have ratified the original Lisbon Treaty.

The second Irish referendum would be about a different question: Does Ireland wish to join the EU with the Lisbon Treaty in force?


The essentials of the CEPS proposal are the same as put forward by this blog, namely to save the substance of the Treaty of Lisbon within a new European Union among the ratifying states.

Given the potential unravelling of the Lisbon Treaty in a number of countries (the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Poland) and the possibility that some might balk at the abandonment of the ‘liberum veto’, the authors are perhaps unduly optimistic in proposing mandatory ratification by 26 states.

In my view, the basic criteria should be that the ratifying states continue, but the treaty is open for later accessions, a customary procedure regarding international treaties.

Another difference is that Gros and Kurpas, focusing on the rescue of the Lisbon Treaty, do not enter into a discussion of the growing popular resistance against the European Union and the profound disillusionment spreading among pro-Europeans.

Without a solemn pledge to institute EU level democratic legitimacy and accountability, the European project is headed for failure. This blog argues that the European Council has to set a new course towards fundamental democratic reform if it wishes to avert a worse catastrophe than the ship-wreck of the Lisbon Treaty.

The missing link between governing and governed must be established in a manner suited to the 21st century.

Ralf Grahn

EUvangelist credo

EUvangelist is a new blog to discover, its credo a more perfect Union. The two first substantive posts ‘So much for bringing Europe closer to the people’ and ‘Who’s afraid of a 2-speed Europe?’ are clearly argued and written.

Recommended reading at:

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

European demos

For the anti-EU crowd it is standard fare to deny the existence of a European demos or people, and even the prospect of one. Some even deny the existence of EU citizenship. Hasn’t the allegation that the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty would ‘enforce’ an EU citizenship been one of the popular myths surrounding treaty reform?

Their concept is more akin to ‘Blut und Boden’ myths than to reasoning based on citizenship and political rights.

Since the Maastricht Treaty entered into force, 1 November 1993, every citizen of an EU member state is a citizen of the European Union.

But the political rights are underdeveloped.

Granting the citizens of the union the main political rights – to vote the officeholders into and out of office and to set the course for the EU – would create the European demos.

It is as simple as that, but until now the governments of the member states have preferred to cashier the meaningful ballot.

Crudely put, the current European demos consists of 27 persons at a time.

Ralf Grahn

Reforming EU institutions and democracy

What to do if the size and the rules of the European Union prevent reform? The Italian president Giorgio Napolitano has called for a more firm and coherent engagement between integrationist states. The European Union needs a new democratic surge.

Napolitano’s speech can be found on the web pages of Notre Europe in Italian and French:

Here is an extract from the French language version:

La Communauté, et puis l’Union, se sont au fur et à mesure élargies jusqu’à atteindre 27 Etats
membres. Mais le moment de la preuve est venu : si, dans cette dimension et avec les règles
actuelles, l’Union montre qu’elle ne peut pas fonctionner et qu’elle ne peut pas non plus
changer ses règles, il faut alors trouver les formes d’un engagement plus ferme et plus
cohérent entre ces pays qui se sont reconnus dans les choix d’intégration et de cohésion plus
avancés, comme celui de la monnaie unique, celui de l’Euro et de la zone Euro.
Et il faut comprendre que le vote en Irlande a plus que jamais radicalement posé un problème.
Le problème des rapports entre gouvernants et gouvernés dans l’Europe unie, le problème de
la participation et du consensus des citoyens.
L’Union européenne – si souvent accusée de manquer de « capacity to deliver » - ne pourra
pas augmenter son efficacité sans réformes et moyens adéquats, et sans un nouvel élan


The maturity test of the European Council is going to be if it succeeds in achieving both institutional and democratic reform.

Ralf Grahn

Monday, 23 June 2008

EU’s Irish future - The Libertas model

At the European Council meeting, the defeated Irish government understandably asked for more time to come to a conclusion after Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

The victorious No campaigner Libertas seems to be as clueless at the moment. The latest on the Libertas web page, dated 17 June 2008, is a ‘thank you’ to those who voted no.

Then comes a truism or admission, however it should be understood: In politics, it is easy to simply oppose.

This is followed by the post-referendum programme: We in Libertas will now reflect on the message from the Irish people, and begin the process of looking to build a positive alternative to the direction Europe is taking.


Begin the process of looking to build.

Ten days on, not much to go on, is there?

It almost defies imagination as results and political campaigns go.

Ralf Grahn

Update 25 June 2008: Still no update on the Libertas web page.

Update 27 June 2008: Nothing new on the Libertas web page. (I don't understand the Lisbon Treaty, so I vote no. I don't like the Lisbon Treaty, so I vote no. I want a better deal, so I vote no. I want a better deal, but I don't know what it is. What do I do now?)

Update 30 June 2008: A new day has dawned, but Libertas still greets us with its old 17 June 2008 truism that it is easy to oppose. Where is the promised better deal for Ireland and Europe?

Update 1 July 2008: A new month has begun, the Slovenian presidency of the EU Council has
ended and the presidency of France has started, but Libertas is still in 17 June 2008 mode, without a whisper about a positive programme either for Ireland or for Europe - the better deal for all of us , you know.

EU democracy and US Bill of Rights

James Madison penned the Bill of Rights, approved by the First United States Congress in 1791. When proposed, the first ten amendments (additions) to the US Constitution aimed to secure the ratification of the Constitution, still a bone of contention between Federalists and anti-Federalists.

The birth and life of the US Constitution is a recommended reading subject for anyone interested in a Europe able to protect its citizens in a changing world.

A glimpse at the ‘United States Bill of Rights’ development is offered by the Wikipedia article:


My present fascination with the subject stems from another ratification process, the one concerning the EU Treaty of Lisbon.

Built on the sand of unanimous ratification, I had long ago labelled the passage of the Lisbon Treaty (and future treaties on the same premises) a ‘mission impossible’. Today we know for sure that the number of ratifications will fall short of 27. What we don’t know is, by how much.

It would be surprising if the Irish changed their minds within six months or a year, if asked the same question again.


Despite the unanimous agreement between member states’ governments and the crushing voting records of most ratifying national parliaments, something is rotten in the state of the union, despite the legally binding ratifications.

Popular opinion is headed in a negative direction, fluctuating between cynicism and outright hostility. Pro-European intellectuals, free to speak their mind, are disillusioned to the core.

Hard of hearing, the European Council has only procrastinated and indicated a re-run in Ireland.

This is deliberately avoiding the root causes.

Even if the substance of the Lisbon Treaty could be salvaged, by most member states, the holes below the water-line put the whole European project at risk.

The European ‘Bill of Rights’ is radical democratic reform to re-establish the necessary ties between the governing and the governed.

There is time enough to devise the essentials of democratic EU reform and to make the European elections 2009 a turning-point in setting the course for the European Union.

Where is Europe’s James Madison?

Ralf Grahn

More on EU democracy

How long can ’Versailles’ continue oblivious of the fact that it has lost the love of the people and the respect of the intellectuals?

Roughly half of EU citizens may dream of the halcyon days of all-encompassing national level democracy, an illusion given voice and credence by anti-EU campaigners. Yes, an illusion, because the world has changed, and the European nation states are not up to the task of enhancing citizens’ security and prosperity on their own.

This, at least, should be acknowledged on the basis of the crushing pro-Lisbon votes of the ratifying parliaments after thorough deliberation.

But in addition to large segments of the populations, the European Council has managed to disillusion increasing numbers of pro-Europeans, who are free to speak their mind. Six decades of resistance against democratic legitimacy and accountability are taking their toll.

The ‘double legitimacy’ of the European Union suffers from the same flaw as other artificial qualifiers like ‘people’s democracy’, which was anything but democratic.

The only sustainable strategy to recover support and respect is to take the qualitative jump to real EU level democracy, giving the citizens the choice of changing their leaders and setting the basic course for the European Union.


Incidentally, if I counted correctly, this is my 27th post following and somehow related to the Irish referendum, the same as the number of member states.

I still believe that the substance of the Treaty of Lisbon would go some way towards an improved European Union, which is in the interest of the citizens of the EU.

But I now think that more fundamental values are at stake. Hardening resistance and growing disenchantment lead towards ultimate failure, if our leaders fail to heed the calls. Therefore the metaphor of 18th century Versailles.


The Federal Trust report by professor Vernon Bogdanor, mentioned in the preceding post, is worth careful thought. If my reading is correct, it has taken the member states and their creatures, the Council and the European Council, as inescapable, and then looked at what else can be done to improve democratic legitimacy and accountability in the European Union.

The proposed improvements would be real, although the structure of the EU would remain lopsided; perhaps not wholly unlike some early stage in Britain, when the powers of the House of Commons grew, but the Sovereign or the House of Lords remained the strong or even dominant players.

A lopsided but real democracy may be the most the citizens of the European Union can hope for in a near (or far) future, given six decades of fierce resistance from the member states' governments against any truly democratic system of European governance.


My proposal is that the (willing) governments of the European Union decide to introduce a European ‘Bill of Rights’ in conjunction with but above the Treaty of Lisbon. This means a solemn undertaking to introduce real democratic reform at the EU level. The pledge would contain the core reforms and a commitment to enact them at the earliest opportunity.

(In the United States the Constitution already laid the democratic and republican foundations of government, so the first amendment package had to address concerns about citizens’ liberties. Here Europe is behind the curve, not only by two centuries, but also qualitatively.)


Since many EU citizens still imagine that national democracy or safeguards against the general interest are viable options, the reasons for real EU level democracy would have to be thoroughly explained as well as enacted.

Possibly, this would happen in a pan-European referendum, and it would require a double majority of population and states.

In Ireland, a second referendum is possible only if the question is different, and elsewhere the prospect of real democracy would have to be understood and embraced.


In my book, the fundamental reasons for the European Union are: security and prosperity.

What is more political than security?

In other words, a future European Union able to employ all the soft and hard means of international politics is needed.

(The purpose and functioning of NATO do not cover this, although NATO remains an important transatlantic alliance. Therefore, a European Union reverting to become an economic community is not a desirable outcome for EU citizens as a whole, although some governments and electorates may not be ready for a union effective on the international stage.)

Such a fundamental European interest has to find working expressions even if some state governments and populations act as if oblivious of the fact. For them suitable arrangements have to be found, such as the European Economic Area (perhaps with some policy areas added) or a second tier EU membership.

A second split looks inevitable, too. I am afraid that the ingrained hostility of some member states to a democratic European Union is such that the only way forward is to leave them behind and institute a new citizens' union based on democratic legitimacy and accountability.


If one or two vessels belonging to a convoy cut their engines on purpose, are the rest to do likewise?

None-speed Europe lacking popular support and democratic legitimacy is not in the interest of the EU citizens.

Standing on its own, the Treaty of Lisbon is as much a problem as a solution with regard to the real issues of Europe.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday, 22 June 2008

European Union: Legitimacy, accountability and democracy

How to bring the institutional forms of the European Union into line with the democratic forces?

Since the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, a number of posts on this blog have looked at various deep flaws of the European Union from a democratic perspective. European voices have mixed with American experiences and my own views.

Now could be a suitable time to look at these questions as a whole. The Federal Trust Report by professor Vernon Bogdanor ‘Legitimacy, Accountability and Democracy in the European Union’ (January 2007) is a reasoned attempt to discuss the improvement of the EU institutions within the existing structures, in order to arrive at a more democratic Europe.

The 20 page report is available at:

The report is evolutionary in character, in that it does not propose a re-establishment of the European Union with new structures, but suggests improvements to the existing ones.

My suggestion is for every concerned EU citizen to read the report, so I will present only a few short annotations of the proposals:

* The nomination of the European Commission directly on the basis of the result of the European elections.

* European Parliament power to hold individual European Commissioners to account for mismanagement, and to secure, if necessary, their dismissal.

* Referendums, preferably Europe-wide with a double and qualified majority of states and population on treaty change.

The report brings forward weighty remarks on the de-legitimising effects of the Council, but stops short of proposing effective remedies.


After an era of public indifference, the European project encountered increasing hostility. The time has come to work with the citizens of the EU.

Ralf Grahn

European Union: Choice of leaders

”What kind of democracy is this, when citizens have no say in the choice of their leaders?”

“European citizens would not be so cynical if they were regularly invited to choose the people who run European affairs. We need real campaigns, dealing with European issues, just as in national elections.”

These and a number of other interesting thoughts are put forward by Charles Wyplosz in a comment on (18 June 2008): What dream will Europe dream now?


An increasing number of pro-Europeans voice their concerns over the plans to circumvent the Irish rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon, ignoring the demands for EU level democracy and accountability.

Regardless of the fate of the Lisbon Treaty, the leaders of the European Union seem set on a course towards ultimate failure.

Since the referendum in Ireland, my own thoughts have shifted in one aspect: Democratic accountability is more important than the technical merits of the proposed treaty.

Ralf Grahn

EU governance and consent

In a letter to the Guardian, Paul Hunt lays out a few basic facts about the European Union:

“The proportion of national legislation and the extent of governance originating at the EU level require the exercise of representative parliamentary democracy broadly similar to, but separate from, the exercise of parliamentary democracy at the national level.”

“The EU will lurch from crisis to crisis, undermine its considerable achievements to date, and destroy its international credibility if the EU elite continue to avoid seeking the consent of its citizens to be governed.”

See Letters, 19 June 2008: EU elites need their citizens’ consent


The main challenge for the heads of state or government is not to circumvent the Irish referendum ‘no’, but to overcome their own resistance against EU level democracy.

Ralf Grahn

EU democracy

The European Union has rolled out a plethora of ’democratic’ measures towards its citizens, such as information, communication, listening, dialogue, debate, some voting rights, NGO financing and participatory exercises, with the citizens’ initiative promised as a Lisbon Treaty sweetener.

Only one thing seems to be missing: real democracy.


“It is not just a matter of communicating the content of European politics better. The basic problem with the EU is a lack of democracy. Citizens cannot see how they can influence European decisions”, said Rev. Thomas Wipf, the president of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.

See Ecumenical News International: Irish vote exposes EU democracy challenge says churches’ leader (16 June 2008):


There is a huge difference between ‘more democratic’ and plain democratic, which no amount of sweet-talking is going to erase.

The essential requirement is the ability to vote the responsible people into and out of office.

Only then do the electors carry the moral responsibility to live by their choices, good and bad.


I have started to doubt if the Lisbon Treaty is worth having with sham democracy at the European Union level.

I have begun to feel that further alienating about half of the EU citizens is too high a price to pay for institutional reform.

Institutional EU reform is necessary, and so is continuing progress, but if they come without democracy, accountability and legitimacy, they are not worth having.

Ralf Grahn

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Lisbon Treaty: European voices

The Treaty of Lisbon has returned. It is not only a matter of ratification and implementation, but after the Irish referendum the question about the direction of the European Union has regained force.

Here are a few European voices on the choices facing our continent.


Christoph Leitl finds that a strong and united Europe is vital. The time has come for a courageous step by those who want to go for a more integrated European Union. We need a coalition of the willing to get Europe back on track.

On EUobserver [Comment] A coalition of the willing has to bring Europe back on track:


Peter Sain ley Berry says that the problem of democracy in the European Union needs to be addressed. All that is required is that we should have a chance to dismiss, or to confirm, probably through the European Parliament, those currently in charge. As for Lisbon itself, a period of humility is called for. But many who have some familiarity with the way the EU works recognise that much of Lisbon is essential to deliver the common interest – to keep the lights switched on as it were.

On EUobserver [Comment] Democracy may be the price for securing a Lisbon agreement:


According to Richard Laming a second Irish referendum is not a neat and tidy solution to the problem facing the EU. There are still democratic challenges ahead waiting to be solved.

On EUobserver [Comment] What would a second Irish referendum solve?


In an interview Peter Ludlow says that the key figure in this is always Ms. Merkel. She has already said – we need to take the Irish problem seriously, but we must have the Lisbon Treaty. How we reconcile these two assertions is the character of the story for the next six months or so. Referenda are, historically, a very unreliable way of arriving at political decisions. The 25 or the 26 will have to take steps to assure that at least they can go ahead based on the Treaty of Lisbon.

On EurActiv interview with Peter Ludlow: Merkel can lead the EU out of crisis


In the electronic edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung Jürgen Habermas concludes that a Europe advancing at the pace of the slowest member is the wrong answer from now on. He proposes a pan-European referendum on the future direction of Europe at the same time as the elections to the European Parliament. This referendum should be clear enough to allow for a decision on the course to follow, and it might lead to some countries deepening their cooperation in the areas of foreign and security policy as well as economic and social policies.

On Jürgen Habermas: Ein Lob den Iren:


A sample of Europeans have voiced their opinions, with variations on the main themes. EU reform is needed to achieve more effective common action, but without democratic foundations the best intentions will come to naught.

Is this a fair summary?

Ralf Grahn

EU for US on legitimacy

The heads of state of government who make up the European Council have a few months to think before they are confronted with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty again. Besides listening to each other and not listening to Europeans, how about lending their ears to an American?

On the EU for US blog, Linda Margaret filters the European Union. In her 19 June 2008 post ‘Referendums, efficiency, and legitimacy’ this quiet American offers food for thought on EU reform:

Read and reflect.

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty and democratic reform

Even if the EU Treaty of Lisbon is an improvement on the current Treaty of Nice for anyone who cares about a European Union working better, we can ask if ‘getting around’ the Irish rejection is the right remedy.

The referendum outcome may be both deplorable and unwise, but the Irish voters should be treated as adults. They live with their decision, until they are ready to make a new one, without being force-fed.

At this moment I think that it is improbable that the voters in Ireland would endorse any conceivable add-ons in the form of declarations. The attitudes might even harden, resulting in embarrassment for the government, the European Council and the European Union in general.

Failing that, an amicable solution may be found. Ireland, perhaps the Czech Republic and some others, might be persuaded to let the willing states proceed on the basis of substance of the Lisbon Treaty. But can we bet on such an outcome, and could it be done without an amending treaty? In the end, the countries wanting to move ahead could establish a new union, if they have to and if they have the will.


The parliamentary ratifications show a strong voting record in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. In my view, representative democracy is clearly superior to plebiscites in scrutinising and approving international treaties, including the EU ones.

At the same time, the anti-EU sentiments are gathering force because of the methods used and contemplated to enact EU treaty reform.

Strong as the sentiments are, the motives behind them are misguided. The main idea seems to be to wreck the process and to debilitate the European Union.

A feeble European Union is less able to enhance the security and prosperity of EU citizens. It is an illusion to imagine that global challenges and European level questions could effectively be handled by re-exporting them to the national governments and parliaments.

Therefore, it lies in our collective interest that the substance of the Treaty of Lisbon, with its modest reforms, is allowed to enter into force.


But the handling of the ratification processes is damaging for the relationship between the national leaders, the European Council and the European Union on the one hand and large swathes of EU citizens on the other hand.

This does not augur well for the future of the European project. Legitimacy is a core problem, and it is not being addressed adequately within the present parameters.


During the ratification process of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights was introduced and put in place as soon as the new union commenced work.

Europe needs something of the kind.

Democratic accountability in EU affairs can not be achieved by the present dual character of the European Union, and the national level is not an effective answer.

Therefore, the substance of the Lisbon Treaty as an initial foundation, needs the additional change of the European Union into a democratic polity.

The European “Bill of Rights” would be this qualitative jump, as a solemn undertaking by the member states.

They need to understand that all EU affairs have to emanate from the EU’s citizens, to be exercised by their elected representatives and with a politically responsible government.

This is the crucial reform principle to prepare during the coming months, jointly with the efforts to bring the Lisbon Treaty reforms into force.

The democratic principle is not only a groundbreaking novelty. It goes against the intergovernmentalist credo of a number of member states.

Therefore, putting it into practice would require some member states to embrace democracy as the only viable option for the 21st century, knowing that they would have to leave a number of recalcitrant members behind.

In other words, two major shifts are needed: The full adoption of the principle of EU level representative democracy and the sacrifice of EU unity (one-speed Europe) in favour of a legitimate union.

But what is the alternative? Growing popular disillusionment, hardening resistance, blocked future reform and ultimate failure. The writing is on the wall.

The democratic European Union is worth the sacrifice of two current principles of lesser value.

In short, we need the substance of the Lisbon Treaty, but not without a ground-breaking democratic reform.

Ralf Grahn


Friday, 20 June 2008

Achilles’ heels of Europe

The aftermath of the Irish referendum is potentially a fertile moment for Europe.

The Irish government seems to be clueless about how to proceed, reduced to pleading for extra time even beyond October 2008. But the referendum Catch 22 is set to remain, and nothing indicates that the ‘pro-European’ voters are going to become pro EU reform.

The vast majority of the EU member states is set to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, which can be seen as a political statement on the necessity of reform.

But if the Irish want themselves and the rest of the EU stuck with the Treaty of Nice, as the crowning achievement of European integration, there is very little the other European leaders can do, presuming that they stick to the ‘liberum veto’.

We have an Irish Catch 22 and a European Catch 22.

What can be fertile about stalemate?


If political leaders have let their rules paint them into a corner with no or only limited room for manoeuvre, there are still people free to think and to speak.

Researchers, students, editorialists, columnists, bloggers and concerned EU citizens can discuss the challenges of European integration and the needed remedies against irrelevance, without pussyfooting.

Even if there seems to be little hope for effective cures in the short term, those interested in Europe’s place in the world can use the deep flaws exposed by the Irish referendum as a starting point for serious thought and discussion.

Here are some suggestions for further discussion:

1) National referendums on European level questions, and more generally the merits of representative vs. direct democracy.

2) The effects of EU’s treaty base and unanimous ratification.

3) Unanimous decision-making and the consequences of ‘liberum veto’.

4) The lack of democratic foundations and democratic legitimacy of the EU.

5) American and European experiences compared.


I wouldn’t go as far as to say that a weak European Union is in nobody’s interest. But it is not in the interest of us EU citizens.

One important reminder of that is James Rogers on Global Power Europe:

Read and reflect.

Ralf Grahn

Continental vision vs liberum veto

The Philadelphia Convention had continental vision and it acted accordingly.

The European powers have been able to patch together a European Union of sorts, but as yet they have effectively restricted its potential for international action and internal reform by imitating the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Here is an excerpt of what the Wikipedia article Liberum veto tells us about the effects of the unanimity rule:

“In the first half of the 18th century, it became increasingly common for Sejm sessions to be broken up by liberum veto, as the Commonwealth's neighbours — chiefly Russia and Prussia — found this a useful tool to frustrate attempts at reforming and strengthening the Commonwealth. The latter deteriorated from a European power into a state of anarchy.”

The Wikipedia article is available at:

Is this the way we want it to be? Is this how we should want it to be?

Ralf Grahn

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Lisbon Treaty ratification tally

For or against the EU Treaty of Lisbon? It does not matter, but facts on the ratification processes do.

One of the best sources is the Ratification section of the Wikipedia web page Treaty of Lisbon:

Quickly updated, with brief but sufficient remarks and exact parliamentary votes, Wikipedia serves an important information need.

Although parliamentary ratification is the essential requirement in political EU discourse, formally many member states provide for presidential signature, and the ratification instrument has to be deposited in Rome with the Italian government.

A short while ago the tally was: ratified 19 member states, not ratified 7 member states, rejected 1 member state. – The ratification instrument had been deposited by ten members.


Readers interested in EU politics may care to study the outcomes of the parliamentary votes. If the national heads of state or government or even the national governments can somehow be contrived to be a mysterious ‘EU elite’, what can be said about the national parliamentarians, who in almost devastating numbers have voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty?

Do the perceptions tally with the facts?

Ralf Grahn

Update 19 June 2008: European Union Law Blog is an excellent source of Lisbon Treaty ratification news and commentary in German. Plus there is a handy ratification list in chronological order at:

Especially during the last days I have noticed that has been very alert with news stories on the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty in English. Go to:

Vox populi

The jubilation among the anti-EU crowd is wild each time progress is halted. Parliamentary non-ratification is naturally fine, but nothing beats a No vote by the people.

It does not seem to matter if EU level questions are decided at the national level, if the outcome is based on fears and fantasies unconnected with the actual contents of the treaty, or if statesman-like vision is railroaded by almost total ignorance – as long as the result is No.

The prize seems to have been taken by one commentator signing off with the proverbial: Vox populi, vox dei.


I find that referendums are incredibly blunt instruments for complex questions. Legislative drafting, parliamentary debate, committee scrutiny, expert witnesses, plenary debate and final vote are incomparably superior to catchy but distortive slogans.

Still, I would respect principled arguments for referenda, based on their perceived benefits compared to representative democracy,

But I have seen few tenable principles for referenda, at least of the kind conducive to good governance.

Principled as the opposite of opportunistic. Meaning that the rules of representative democracy shall be set aside on certain, objective grounds in like cases.

The louder the praise of popular wisdom, the less safeguards against the use of referendums the proponents want, I presume.

One of the few merits of referendums, in my view, is the responsibility of the population to live with the consequences of its poor collective choices.


If there are thinking individuals among the referendum campaigners, they could read the article on Open Democracy by George Schöpflin: The referendum: populism vs democracy

available at:


Back to our ‘Vox populi’ commentator, seemingly unaware of the full proverb, as presented by the Wikipedia article Vox populi:

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.

English translation:

And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.


Representative democracy is far from God’s voice, but thankfully less prone to delusions than our Vox populi.

Ralf Grahn

Ireland after Lisbon Treaty vote

Most of the Irish web discussions I have seen after the no vote on the Lisbon Treaty have, understandably, centred of internal reasons for no and yes ballots, or on the roles of different players on the national scene.

In Jurist, the alert web publication of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law, Dr Laurent Pech of the National University of Ireland, Galway, offers a summary and an evaluation of the three most influential reasons for rejection put forward by Irish critics of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The guest column is called ‘After Ireland’s ‘No’: Long Live the EU Lisbon Treaty?’, and it is available at:

But Pech offers enough of a European perspective to give food for thought concerning Ireland’s position in the real or outside world. He goes on to analyse the potential consequences for Ireland after the no vote, based on various options left to the other European states: limited reforms based on the Treaty of Nice, starting from scratch to negotiate a new treaty and continuing the ratification process.


Has Ireland played itself off-side? Does Ireland want to re-enter the play? How could it be done?

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty: Double edge of UK ratification

The UK House of Lords resisted the temptation to postpone ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon and approved the government bill. This puts the number of ratifying member states at 19 out of 27.

See, for instance, the BBC report:

Prime minister Gordon Brown can participate in the European Council discussions strengthened by the decision. UK ratification sends a signal to the seven member states, where the ratification process is still open. British anti-EU and pro-referendum campaigners will of course do their utmost to stir up emotions against the government and the European Union, both unpopular in the realm.

But the situation is far from a resounding victory for people who believe in the necessity of EU reform.

In its present form, the Treaty of Lisbon is legally dead. Ireland would have to change its opinion in a new referendum either to approve the Lisbon Treaty or to scrap the need for referendums. Neither looks likely, since the reasons for popular rejection have left the government clueless as to the potential remedies. There is no effective prescription for malaise, at least in the realm of treaties.

Ideas have been floated about soothing declarations, but the effect might be the opposite, hardening opposition. The Irish constitutional setting surrounding referendums simply makes the country ungovernable in certain respects, and without a real voice in European affairs.

This means that the United Kingdom retains the option to scrap the Lisbon Treaty at any given moment, but it has, at least temporarily, put a dampener on aspirations to build a more effective European Union. In spite of popular illusions of a looming European super-state, British governments have effectively managed to reduce the scope of reform at each stage during and since the European Convention.

As long as it remains on the inside track, Britain can more effectively defend a political union in name, but built on intergovernmental sand. On the outside or on an outer track, tenacious UK obstructionism might fail, strengthening French and German resolve to move ahead, possibly leading to a two-speed Europe, leaving the UK outside the core.

Crudely put: The British strategy is pissing in on the inside.

As long as soul-searching and salvage operations continue, the Treaty of Nice remains in force, hardly a catastrophe for Gordon Brown. The risk, from his point of view, is if the frustration of integrationist countries turns into decisive action to remedy the fatal flaws of the existing European Union, if necessary by creating a new one, more effective but with fewer members.

Until now, inertia and fudge have served British governments well, but to have the cake and eat it too, a vigilant watch is needed. The UK Parliament has handed Gordon Brown a passport to the inner circles.

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Who stands up for Europe?

Who is more to blame? The so called EU elites, who have built the European Union on intergovernmental sand? Or moody populations resisting every move to improve the common structures even marginally?


There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.


Soon we have dithered and demurred Europe into oblivion and irrelevance on the world stage.

Who stands up for Europe, if Europeans don’t? Benign outside forces?

Time to launch the European Union Epitaph Competition?

Ralf Grahn

Lisbon Treaty in Sweden: Legal opinion

The Swedish Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) has given its expert opinion on the government’s draft ratification bill concerning the EU Treaty of Lisbon. The legal opinion, dated 13 June 2008, draws on the earlier statement on the Constitutional Treaty to conclude that the proposed ratification does not require amendments to the Swedish Constitution.

The legal opinion can be accessed at:

This means that the government of Sweden can send the bill to parliament without constitutional complications.


On the political side, foreign minister Carl Bildt has reiterated his mantra that Irelend decides for Ireland, and Sweden decides for Sweden.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Time to give the EU credibility

My posts on the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and its exposure of the fatal weaknesses of the European Union have gained both readers and valuable comment.

Now there are new voices demanding decisive action to end EU impotence, conveniently linked by Kosmopolit in Kosmolinks #16:

They include Daniel Gros, Daniel Korski, Joschka Fischer, Wolfgang Munchau, Robert Kagan, Will Hutton and DJ Nozem.

Read and reflect.

Ralf Grahn

More on: Why Europe?

Let the specialists explore vote-weighting, fish quotas, phytosanitary regulations and the like. What people in general need are a few home truths about why the European Union is necessary and why we actually need ‘more Europe’ in some crucial respects, while renouncing regulation overload at the European level.


In the United States, more than 200 years ago, the main purposes of that Union were succinctly put by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist, number XXIII:

“The necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived.

The principal purposes to be answered by the union are these – the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.”


There are two fundamental needs: security and prosperity.

The fundamental challenges remain the same, but in today’s globalising world they are even more real and demanding, while the European nation-states are ever less able to deliver on their own.

Sovereignty is an empty shell, if it means that we reject ‘outside interference’, but are unable to offer working solutions.

The European countries have started to come to grips with this dilemma, by joining forces selectively and often timidly.


There are two fundamental challenges:

1. We need modes for more effective European action.

2. Europeans need to understand why.

Our political leaders have invested little in explaining the necessities to their electors. A few cursory remarks and an occasional speech is not enough to shape a needed new vision of the world for whole populations.

The basic challenges need constant repetition. Where mass media do little to educate people – preferring scandal, entertainment or even their own disruptive political agendas – the politicians’ task becomes not only demanding, but almost impossible.

But the political leaders have to make the effort, because enlightening the bewildered populations is a necessary condition for effective action.

One more thing: Blaming politicians is not enough. Our common European heritage tells us that we have the freedom and the responsibility to educate ourselves.

Democracy is, in essence, our responsibility to bear the consequences of our collective wrong choices. But with better choices life can be worth living.

Ralf Grahn

Why Europe?

There are fairly small groups of vehement and vocal anti-EU campaigners, but they resonate with varying proportions of national electorates hostile to or suspicious of ‘Brussels’, although profound indifference towards the European Union is probably the prevalent mood, equally frustrating for the anti-EU crowd as for Europhiles.

My attempt to sum up the European malaise is: Distant and meddling.

Distant bureaucrats fine-tuning standards for different products in the internal market, incomprehensible treaties and tons of secondary legislation, unclear responsibilities and poor accountability, almost faceless politicians ushered in from black cars to do, what?

At the same time, a pervasive feeling that these tentacles reach into every nook and cranny, somehow threatening our daily lives and comforts, as well as our jobs and futures.

Thus far, the feelings are common to large swathes of the peoples, but more prevalent among the poor, the uneducated, the old and the rural populations, in short, those who live precariously.

The causes of discontent vary wildly, too, from accusations of an ‘ultra-liberalist’ conspiracy trampling workers’ rights to ‘socialist’ over-regulation choking free enterprise.


There is no magic cure. ‘Washington’ is as much of a swearword in US politicking as ‘Brussels’ in Europe, and there is a guaranteed market for various shades of populist hopefuls nationally, regionally and locally.

Although the division of labour between the EU and the member states is far from perfect, the questions decided at the European level tend to be far from the daily concerns of individuals, unless they happen to be directly affected like farmers or fishermen.


But something needs to be done. Something could be done.

The European Convention, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty (in the consolidated version) made some gestures towards presenting the basic rules of the European Union in a readable form, but they all carried with them the luggage of previous treaties.

Their improved aims and principles are admirable. In the long run they strengthen the foundations for progress towards a citizens’ Europe, although the process may be a long one.

But the basic principles and necessary institutions would have to be presented in an even shorter document than the proposed Treaty on European Union. If, despite its intergovernmental character, the common foreign and security policy, including the common security and defence policy, was moved to the proposed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, we would be near a readable basic document for EU citizens (as legal texts go).

The constitutional document could be fairly neutral, leaving it to the various political parties to try to convince the EU citizens of the merits of their programmes.


Every home in the EU would receive this fundamental document and it would have to be produced in a form which would make people voluntarily place it in their bookshelf for further reference.

The objectives and principles of the European Union tell us something about what the EU has been established for and how it is supposed to work, but more is needed as to why.

More about that in a coming post.

Ralf Grahn

Constitutions: USA versus Europe

The Philadelphia Convention drafted the short and readable Constitution of the United States of America (1787), with little in the way of democratic (Britain, Holland) and republican precedents to follow, and their ability to construct a federal system was revolutionary.

Still, by getting it right the first time and by using broad brush-strokes, the Convention left little to be tinkered with later, although the Bill of Rights was added almost immediately to ensure ratification, and the abolition of slavery, election procedures and civil rights have caused some amendments during more than 200 years of existence.

In spite of being almost perfect at birth, the US Constitution avoided the dangers of petrification by providing for future amendments. Changing the Constitution was made difficult, but not impossible, as laid out in Article V:

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; ---


The European experience has been different: The texts have been long and unwieldy. Detailed provisions and laborious compromises have been enshrined at the ‘constitutional’ level. Both treaty negotiations and later ratifications have required unanimity.

All this has led to the constant need for treaty revision in order to avoid ossification.

The Irish referendum has, once again, shown how feeble the general interest is in the European context.


In an earlier post we saw that the Treaty of Lisbon has to be ratified by 27 member states to enter into force in its present form.

The preceding phase, making the needed amendments, is another source of relative impotence. It does not need a special provision, because it follows from the application of principles of traditional international law and from the requirement that each participating government has to be willing to propose and able to get ratification from its national parliament (as a rule).

The current rule on treaty change is Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union:

Article 48 TEU

The government of any Member State or the Commission may submit to the Council proposals for the amendment of the Treaties on which the Union is founded.

If the Council, after consulting the European Parliament and, where appropriate, the Commission, delivers an opinion in favour of calling a conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States, the conference shall be convened by the President of the Council for the purpose of determining by common accord the amendments to be made to those Treaties. The European Central Bank shall also be consulted in the case of institutional changes in the monetary area.

The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.


Constant tinkering, frequent intergovernmental conferences, proposed half-measures, protracted ratifications, unreadable texts, alienated electorates …

If the European Union is in a hole, it is one it has dug itself.

Ralf Grahn