Is the General Interest prevailing in the European Union?

Grahn, in one of his comments, quoted Guy Verhofstadt, saying that during his years on the European Council, he never heard anyone mention the European interest.

The aspiration of every democracy is to insure that the General Interest prevails over the various vested interests. When at the country level it is not very clear if the majority can truly represent the National Interest, capturing the General Interest at the level of the European Union is even harder. Can a simple electoral rule translate the European Interest?

Obviously, in my humble position of a Eurotechnocrat, I cannot make a general judgment on the topic. The only thing I can blog about is the perception that we have inside the European Commission on how the General Interest of the Union is represented.
In our daily work, I would say that this feeling can be perceived from three parts: the general interest felt through the Commission itself, from the Europarliament and from the Member States, ie the Council.

Within the Commission, my guess is that vast majority of Officials really do put forwards the interest of the European Citizens before the interest of their fellow citizens. This is actually one of my pride in being an officials. Of course there are few of us who are excessively patriotic and even fewer who succumbs to lobbies' pressure.
Even at the highest level, I can also say that the Commissioners are generally taking their role seriously. One speaking example: the Common Agricultural Policy which has with years turned into a cash machine for farmers. What is the point of spending the vast majority of the European Budget on a tiny fraction of the population? When the EC tried to reform the subsidies, it was with great pain as producing Memeber States fought to preserve their interests. Well, we are still paying the subsidies (less and less), even if it makes the consumers and society worse off.

With respect to the Parliament and the MEP who really do their jobs (not the bozos cashing their indemnities), there is a true desire to represent the European Citizens. You can be your own judge by looking at the laws that were passed: SMS rate, limitation of toxic products, etc. From what I experienced from the MEP scrutiny, it is clear that MEPs do not act like their American counterparts and the Pork Barrel legislation.

I cannot say the same about Member States... No need to work at the EC to see how each Council becomes a bargain mess whenever a major decision needs to be taken. Where most of countries agree that majority equals general interest, at the Council level it must be consensus in most case, two third at best, . But when it comes to our relations with Member States, mostly in the various committees, it can be clearer that we are not talking from the same point of view. But what do you expect? After all committees are there to make sure that Member States don't get screwed. I personally found it hard sometimes, because some have no shame in doing so.

Like any other honest public servant, I would like as much as possible serve the General Interest. So anything that strengthen the European Citizens is good for me. But only you, the European Citizen, can decide what is the best proxy for the General Interest. If at the national level, there is a agreement, it is yet to be done seriously at the European level. European Constitution, Treaty of Lisbon or anything else.

I think the ball is in your hands.

1 comment:

  1. My impression is that placing the EU citizen as the true North of one's moral compass succeeds fairly well with regard to the proposing Commission and the co-legislating European Parliament.

    The greatest problems here are, perhaps, what the Commission dares to propose, and for instance the EPIN study of expert opinions pointed out a weakening of the Commission's role.

    If many citizens of the European Union find the European Parliament too complex and distant to vote for, they have not even begun to wake up to the role of the Council.

    Individual states are able to score small victories for cherished special interests, but the result as a whole leads to sub-optimal decisions.

    Even the dedicated citizen is reduced to the role of a camera crew at an international conference (which the Council is, on a permanent basis):

    You can see the black cars arriving, and the dark suits emerging; this is the agenda, public proposals and deliberation in public (when applicable).

    Later you are allowed to see the official conclusions and the common positions, "spiced" with a few bland words by the Presidency-du-jour, and as communicated by national Ministers to "their" press corps (if any).

    But it is almost impossible to follow the process between the beginning and the end, so the mushroom method applies, with issues treated in darkness and manure.

    Naturally, the processes are longer than just the formal Council meetings, but the structural problem is the EU as a union of states and the Council as an enlarged diplomatic conference.

    The real alternative would be to base the EU on its citizens, but this would also lead to changes with regard to the Commission, which would become the arm of politically accountable government.