“We need the EU”, “Don’t go destroying our European integration”, “The rights want to go back to the 70s” are the battle cries against demands to withdraw from the Union. Any politician contemplating such a thing is stigmatized in many media and the “progressive” circles as traitors to the European idea. Britain’s Brexit proponents are represented as a group acting completely irresponsibly. But when it comes to concrete projects of the EU, such as CETA, the free trade agreement to be concluded with Canada, the cries of “The EU is dictating us“, “We want to decide for ourselves,” “No CETA without a vote in the Federal Parliament” “Juncker has not heard the shot” pop up with the same quality of indignation. The question that arises here is: What kind of image do people have of the EU?
Let’s take the example of CETA to the national level and try to clarify it: It begins with intergovernmental discussions, the Austrian Government negociates an agreement with the other country. Then the Federal Council is consulted, and prompted to issue an opinion. The change requests contained therein are again discussed and appropriate compromise proposals are incorporated. Then, the bill is presented to Parliament, worked through in a first and second reading, the Bundesrat is once more involved and in the end Parliament alone votes for all of Austria.
“Austria is dictating us” ?, “The chancellor has not heard the shot“?, “No convention without a vote in the diets“? Looking at this in relation to a State, then the absurdity of these statements is quickly realized. A politician within a province would soon be known as a grandiose idiot, were they to talk about the political system of the state in such a manner. When it comes to the EU however, there is no problem about it. The EU, that’s something floating somewhere above the clouds and ruling from there, although we don’t want it to – or so it seems. Therefore, we must resist, “We need to defy the EU”, these people are sounding to their voters. “We need to defy Austria“. Who would give such an announcement a Tyrolean or Salzburger Landtag more than perhaps a frown? “Them in Vienna.” And “Them in Brussels”, yes that works. But “Them in Austria” coming from one in Bregenz?
This shows how little all the “glowing Europeans” think of our European Union in truth. Either they do not know the legislative process or they ignore it deliberately. They do not see themselves in the middle, but far outside. The EU Parliament which we last elected in 2014 within the whole European Union, is dismissed as an unimportant “talking shop” by all living in it. The European Parliament, which is nothing else than the national parliaments at the European level, is considered to be a dumping ground for outdated politicians and a playground for annoying idealists who get disposed of there. Therefore, it is no wonder that all these national populist speeches have caught on and opposed people to “this EU”. “CETA must not be pushed through past the national parliaments“, sounds so European and democratic, yet it is exactly the opposite. It is the call of both the nationalist left and right, who want to make policy “tailored to their own”, because they would have to be active in the EU Parliament otherwise. They would have to be elected there in the European elections. That would weaken the power of the national parliaments, would shift powers to the EU Parliament, 28 parliaments would be given a status similar to local governments of states. This is being mobilized against and people are stirred up against “the EU” as well as the elected governor of the EU, Junkers. Within the Commission, some sense the chance to overthrow the commission president. The EU Council, in which the leaders of EU countries sit, the chairmen and chairwomen of Ministries, who jointly decide over, modify or reject projects, is ignored. The same people who work there, use polemics against their own decisions once they are back home.
That’s no way for Europe. And therefore Europe should be rethought. What do we want from Europe, what we want from the EU? The EURO without centrally steered tax legislation can not work, that is something we should also be aware of. Maybe something like the EFTA and the EEA without the EURO should be enough for us? If so, then one should be very honest and not talk of withdrawal, which is supposedly unthinkable, but of crossing into a zone which corresponds more closely to what the policy makers of the countries are also willing to stand by towards their voters. Only then the permanent crisis of our EU can be terminated. Only when the politicians of all countries are behind the project, and rather than constantly trying to destroy it, will our EU endure. But they will only back it, if we do, as well. If it is OUR European Union, in which we all live, which we accept as our community and whose democratically elaborated arrangements we do not constantly question, rather than “the EU” way out there somewhere.
Translation from German: Serena Nebo
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