On 25th June, PDU London hosted a panel discussion in the House of Lords on the prospects – or otherwise – for European democracy after the Parliament elections.
British politics has been unusually affected by the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, given that David Cameron has placed himself so firmly – and unsuccessfully – against Juncker’s appointment and its federalist implications. In the aftermath of landmark European elections, the PDU’s London office hosted an event in the House of Lords to discuss the implications for democracy.
David Campbell-Bannerman, Conservative and ECR MEP, made the Eurosceptic argument against continental democracy. Claiming that there is a “disconnect” between the rulers and the ruled in Europe, he maintained that the nation-state was a more democratic political model than that which has been constructed by the European institutions; the fundamental problem, he argued, is that there is no common European demos which could provide a reasonable basis for a state. Making a distinction between inter-governmental and super-national politics, he reiterated his support for the former and the ideal of a “Europe of nations” rather than a single federal state.
Lord Anthony Giddens, Emeritus Professor at the LSE and patron of the PDU, responded that national sovereignty is nowadays a nothing but a formality in the face of a globalised world. He instead noted the emergence of a European public sphere, marked by the international coverage of last year’s German elections, the Parliamentary panel debates earlier this year, and the controversy around Jean-Claude Juncker’s ascension to the presidency of the Commission. Paradoxically, he pointed out, the recent international movement of Eurosceptic parties has helped along the Europeanisation of national politics by drawing attention to continental issues. However, he warned of the retreat from cosmopolitanism into sectarianism which is characterising much post-crisis political across the world.
Andrew Duff, ex-MEP for the Liberal Democrats and ALDE and one of the drafters of the Lisbon Treaty, supported Lord Giddens’ arguments whilst adding his own perspective. Describing Eurosceptic politicians as generally “lazy, ignorant and jealous”, he suggested that the European institutions would interpret the Lisbon Treaty in a democratic manner and appoint Juncker head of the Commission – a prediction which has since been validated. He also urged further steps toward the creation of a European federal democracy, with fiscal integration and the establishment of the Commission as a properly accountable executive branch of government as the next major reforms.
The discussion was chaired by Lord John Bew, Professor at Queen’s University Belfast.