• 11 OCT 2011
FOLLOWING HER weekend meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Berlin German chancellor Angela Merkel repeated her belief that further proposals to strengthen the euro zone will require changes in the EU treaties. Such references are discomfiting for the Government, in no mood to fight another referendum campaign so soon after the two Lisbon Treaty votes.
Europe should “get on with what we have now”, according to Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Conventional wisdom holds it would be folly to tempt the electorate into another referendum, assuming it is legally needed, because it would be so difficult to win the argument in favour of change.
While this is an understandable position politically, it is too defensive. Plans to recapitalise European banks, provide funds to backstop financial stability, reinforce economic disciplines and impose taxes to fund transfer payments are of necessity ambitious if the euro is to survive. Assuming that EU leaders resolve to find the means required to ensure the euro is stabilised, they must also be ready to convince their parliaments and electorates it is the best way to proceed. That is the only acceptable democratic way out of this deep impasse.
Treaty change may not be required to make such changes. Governments have preferred to tackle the crisis between themselves rather than by increasing the role of the European Commission and traditional EU community decision-making methods. Such a trend towards inter-governmentalism reinforces the power of the largest states like Germany and France. It erodes the institutional and political balances that compensate smaller states for the loss of sovereignty involved in European integration. Simultaneously the democratic credentials of the European Parliament – and of national parliaments – are eroded because such actions outstrip existing channels of accountability and legitimacy.
The gap between governments and voters is thereby widened, making it all the more troublesome for political leaders to find and implement daring solutions.
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