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Cameron’s Speech Opens A Window Of Opportunity To Reform The EU

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Transparency – Christian Engström

Transparency – Christian Engström

As a member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party, I was very happy to hear British prime minister David Cameron announce that Britain will have a referendum on its EU membership, probably some time around 2017. This is excellent news.

In practice, this means that Cameron has told the EU that it has until 2017 to shape up and get its act together, if they want to keep Britain as a member.

If the referendum was held today, with the EU in the shape it is, the UK citizens would almost certainly say no to remaining members. If the EU wants to avoid falling apart with Britain leading the way towards general EU disintegration, the EU must quickly reform itself into something that has a chance of being attractive to the citizens, including those in the UK.

This opens a window of opportunity to reform the EU in the direction that we in the Swedish Pirate Party are demanding in our political platform. We want a transparent and democratic EU that only does the things that the citizens and member states agree need to be done on the European level, instead of trying to meddle with everything.

The EU today suffers from a lack of both transparency and democratic accountability. The important decisions are taken by lobbyists and unelected civil servants behind closed doors.

The ACTA negotiations were a perfect example of this lack of transparency, but most issues handle by the EU follow a similar pattern. The IPRED directive, longer copyright terms for musical recordings, data retention, and various EU Commission initiatives for either three-strikes or internet censorship or both.

Most of the things that we Pirates are fighting against in our daily political work come from Brussels and the EU. This is no coincidence.

All the new laws that pamper to various rich and influential special interests at the expense of ordinary citizens are the result of this structural problem in the EU. In Brussels, the industry interests represented by various lobbyists almost always carry more weight than the interest of ordinary citizens.

We Pirates should and will continue to work for more transparency within the current framework, but this will not be enough to solve the fundamental problems with EU.

The Lisbon Treaty was rammed down the throats of the citizens, against their will and despite clear no votes in several referendums. The EU elite got it through in the end, but it should be obvious to everybody that it’s the end of the road when it comes to pushing ahead towards superstate against the will of the people.

We need a new basic treaty for the EU to replace the undemocratic Lisbon Treaty, and the mess of other treaties that serve as the EU’s legal basis today. And this time it shouldn’t be a Treaty drafted by the elite behind closed doors and then presented on a ”take it or take it” basis to the citizens. This time it must be a treaty that the majority of citizens in Europe are prepared to support in a Europe-wide referendum.

In an
interview with the Pirate Times, UK Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye describes the UK Pirate Party’s views on the EU:

I think it’s fair to say many of our members have quite an internationalist outlook. Like any UK party (perhaps apart from UKIP!) there are a range of views, and of course we encourage debate. Even so, our crowd sourced manifesto which was overwhelmingly adopoted by our members is clear. Our vision for the EU is based on our fundamental principles.

It’s important that the EU increase its level of transparency and openness, and this should inform the EU’s politics, organisation and administration. The union should be accountable to its members and citizens, the Council should be properly open to scrutiny by national parliaments, and there should be a fundamental rebalance to elected representatives.

This is very similar to what the Swedish Pirate Party is saying from our perspective. We want to see an EU that is based on transparency and openness and is accountable to its citizens. This would be a very different EU from the one we have today, so a new basic Treaty is needed.

Thanks to Mr. Cameron’s decision to let UK citizens have their say about the EU in 2017, there is now a real possibility that we can build the political momentum to get a new EU Treaty that puts the EU under democratic control by the citizens.

This is an opportunity that we must seize.

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About The Author: Christian Engström

Christian Engström is a Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the Swedish Pirate Party. He has previously been an activist in FFII in the fight against software patents, and has a background as an entrepreneur and a coder.

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15

  1. 1

    Does transparency matter to the people whose main reason for wanting out of the EU is because it is a drain on their budget? If you want support for this, will you need to make a connection between how transparency will ease their concerns?

    • 1.1
      harveyed

      Well the drain on the budget is of course partly because of lack of transparency. If no one is held accountable for how the money is used… Then there will be money spent in ways that the voters don’t benefit from. The solution is hardly to exit the EU, since the same lobbying could be done on any national level of politics. But as media portrays it – that it is mainly about different nations are free-riding on each other’s expense, of course most people THINK that the problem is between nations when it really is about corruption and companies / industries buying political means of power.

  2. 2

    An EU that “based on transparency and openness, and accountable to its citizens” could still be ecocidal if the interests of all living systems were left out of the narrative.

    A new basic treaty for the EU would be a great project if it started one step further back, and asked: “what would a Europe of Bioregions look like? and how would it work?”.

    At a theoretical level, we know some of the answers: Swedish climate scientists advocate the ‘polycentric governance’ of social-ecological systems, for example. Real-world examples exist, too – for example, among emerging regional food economies.

    Open Information and Earth System Governance need each other.

  3. 3
    Ian Farquhar

    Sadly, in almost every way, I cannot name a single Western liberal democracy where the same problems do not occur. The problems which affect the EU are not unique, and it’s often the same shadowy actors (I hate the wolf-whistle term “elites”) which are pulling the strings. eg. MPAA/RIAA.

    • 3.1
      Anonymous

      The EU does allow one nastily little practice which is rarer in other confederacies and federations – that of policy washing. One of the first really blatant cases that came to the attention of the English press was rail privatisation, where the UK government pushed for the first railways package in Brussels and then told the public at home that their hands were forced by the EU rules (which, as most other countries showed, wasn’t true anyway).

      the Data Retention Directive is another good example: the idea had already been proposed in several places at the national level, but was politically unpopular, so it was pushed through at the EU.

      I think the media is partly to blame, since EU politics seems to get far less attention at the level of policy details and legislative debates than national and regional politics, even though with the superiority of EU law those matters are of huge importance.

  4. [...] article has also been published at Falkvinge on Infopolicy Full transcript of David Cameron’s speech Hax: Camerons EU-tal (in Swedish) Share [...]

  5. 4

    This post is entirely too optimistic. Cameron’s speech has nothing to do with the EU or the state of it – it is entirely local politics: to appease the Europhobes in his party, and to attempt to get voters back from the fringe party UKIP. Cameron is far from stupid and knows very well that leaving the EU would be economically disastrous for the UK; every line of that speech is something he felt pushed into saying in an attempt to save votes at home from fools.

    • 4.1

      That may be, but as I wrote on G+:

      When the UK PM says something like this, it has a tremendous effect not just in Brussels, but in local politics in other countries as well.

      The reason may have been opportunistic UK politics, but the effects are felt far and wide.

      So I agree with the assessment that it opens a window for positive reform.

      Cheers,
      Rick

  6. 5
    Bob (Not a Builder)

    I agree with David Gerard’s point. Cameron’s threat to pull out of the EU is his attempt to save his political skin. If the referendum is held, it won’t be for any of the good reasons presented in this post.

  7. 6

    The hitch is that what Cameron is trying to do pulls in entirely the opposite direction.

    For example, Cameron doesn’t believe in democracy at the EU level. This is in his speech – he has a theory about Europe not having a “demos” which makes it impossible. He wants more things to be stitched up by the governments of the member states, which he thinks are the only level that can be democratic. Starting out from the premise that democracy is impossible isn’t a particularly useful way to produce democracy. In practice if he had his way we’d have more decisions made by secretive, lobbyist-friendly intergovernmental stitch-ups.

    • 6.1
      Anon

      This is a common occurrence in not just Cameron’s argumentation but many other critics of the EU. They criticize the EU for its democratic deficit and then turn around and say that because of its democratic deficit reforms cannot happen or when they happen they are not appreciated. The same type of logic I find in MEP Engstrom’s post: Sure, the Lisbon Treaty has been pushed down the voters throat — but it is still an enormous improvement over the previous state of democratic accountability. Why is there never any mention of that?

      The Constitutional Treaty and Lisbon Treaty are great examples of this mentality I described above. First it must be said again that thanks to the Lisbon Treaty the EU has become much more democratic, the European Parliament becoming a co-legislator in almost all matters of EU competence. Now it is also widely known that the Constitutional Treaty has basically been Lisbon in a different color.

      However, looking at the content of both treaties one finds that the Constitutional Treaty would have been the treaty more easily understood by the average Joe and therefore more transparent. For example, it included an article that codified EU law taking precedent over national law. This was of course shot down never mind the fact that it is established case law anyway that EU law takes precedent over national law. It was a transparency service to write it down for everyone to see. The average Joe might maybe read the Constitutional Treaty, they will not know the case law interpreting it. So there is a paradox: On the one hand politicians (and voters) call for more democracy, more transparency and reform of the EU but shoot down attempts to make exactly that happen because of its current bad rep.

      I am not trying to make a case against referenda at all but if you look at the referenda in Ireland, the Netherlands and France about the Constitutional Treaty you find the same kind of mentality I described above: On the one hand they criticize the structure of the EU for it’s lack of democracy but then, being the position where they could decide to approve a Treaty that would drastically change the EU to the better they shoot it down — perhaps for completely unrelated reasons (e.g. wanting to show their discontent with national politics).

      If the EU is to become more democratic it has to become the EU of the people and that will mean that nation states via the Council will lose influence, while at the same time strengthening the European Parliament. The nation state obviously does not want that — and many times its citizens neither. I am not even touching on the necessity of a politicized European Commission, e.g. European government accountable to either the people or the European Parliament, which is an entirely different beast politically altogether.

      So here we are with a fucking mess of a construct, the necessity of which is almost universally accepted, the problems of which almost universally seen and yet nobody is willing to fix it. Not the people who could and not the people who are calling for change.

  8. 7
    Anonymous

    how good it would be if your vision were to come to fruition. the problem with getting that to happen is, i think, severely hampered when Swedish law enforcement, courts and the government are performing in the way they are by pursuing TPB 4 in at least an extremely similar manner to how Aaron Swartz was pursued by Ortiz and Heymann in the USA and all in an effort to please the US government and entertainment industries. having just read how Gottfrid Svartholm is likely to be in court in less than a month on hacking charges, it goes to show the lengths these guys are going to be persecuted and how one country has influenced another so much that charges are likely to be trumped up just to prove a point, that a massive corporation has the influence to get what it wants and the ordinary person, whether guilty or innocent, will be well and truly fucked!!

  9. 8

    Maybe Loz and Rick could say a bit more about how they see this process panning out.

    The story so far is that Cameron wants the EU to be more nationalistic, and is pretending he wants it to be more transparent and democratic. Loz and Rick really want the EU to be more transparent and democratic, and their strategy seems to be to pretend to believe Cameron about making the EU more transparent and democratic, in the hope of kicking of a process in which …something ???

    What’s the something, and what happens when there’s an actual (hypothetical) treaty negotiation where Cameron tries to get what he really wants rather than what he’s pretending to want?

  10. 9
    Nyuu

    Do not forget, Cameron promised a EU vote, if his party gets reelected in 2 years.

    Even though I liked the speech, I think Cameron didn’t mean any of it and his plans do not involve anything of the sort discussed in this article, but rather wants to stall EU integration.
    Further EU integration will require a new treaty or other agreement, so opportunity for reform would have been available regardless of this speech.

  11. 10

    As a (technically) disabled person struggling to survive under the ConDems, I wouldn’t trust that one word out of Scamoron’s mouth isn’t in his own self-interests.

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