Friday, September 21, 2007

Transnational governance made simple

The European Union has a foolproof way of expanding its power over its subjects. If the citizens of a particular country reject some EU initiative, whether by popular opinion or by a vote, the EU either makes the people vote again, and keep voting until they come up with the correct answer, or simply bypasses the people altogether by obtaining approval directly from the government concerned. And it looks like the EU is about to get its way again in The Netherlands.

The Dutch plunged the EU into a political crisis in 2005 by rejecting the proposed European constitution, along with French voters. The EU's solution was simple: they stopped calling the constitution a constitution, and started calling it a Reform Treaty instead. And because it's not a constitution (although it is a constitution), the EU says the electorates of member countries don't need to be given a say on the matter.

Now the Reform Treaty (constitution) is before the Dutch parliament. Once again a majority of Dutch people are opposed to the measure, but this time it appears that the constitution (Reform Treaty) will be forced through, without reference to quaint abstractions like 'the will of the people'.

The EU's cause is being helped by the positions of the three main Dutch political parties. The Christian Democrats support the Reform Treaty (constitution), and don't want a referendum. Simple enough. The Labour Party, however, is in favour of the Reform Treaty (constitution), but is also in favour of holding a referendum, which could see it defeated. And, just to make things interesting, the Christian Union opposes the Reform Treaty (constitution), but also opposes referendums on principle.

So the majority of the people are against the Reform Treaty (constitution), but the majority of politicians are either in favour of it, or against allowing a referendum, or both. And the issue is further complicated by the fact that the lower house of the Dutch parliament is threatening to organise a referendum regardless of the government's decision, while the upper house is threatening to block such a move.

Between the principled Dutch and the utterly unprincipled EU, there's a real chance that this time there will be no referendum, and the constitution (Reform Treaty) will be approved. This in theory will make it easier for the pro-EU governments of Britain and other countries to persuade their electorates that the whole business is just so much Eurocratic red tape, and nothing they need to concern themselves with.

If you don't have a migraine yet, there's more information and analysis here and here, and plenty more at EU Referendum.


Anonymous said...

Great posts, keep up the good work, you have moved up to no 15 on my daily must read.

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