ONE FOR ALL? European Union flags flying near parliament in Brussels.
Deregulation, sanctions and ‘selfish blockades’
Democracy is a strange fish. In America it means you can violate a country’s sovereignty and assassinate their citizens. In American parlance, you can ‘take out’ those you don’t like because they think or act differently. In everyday terms it is called murder.
How that comes under a definition of democracy is difficult to fathom. America is not alone. Other ‘democratic’ countries also engage in similar ‘democratic’ activities, ranging from Israel to France and our closest neighbour. Umbrella terms like Mossad, Foreign Legion or MI6 spring to mind.
Who does ‘democracy’ serve? Is it the country’s citizens or a select few in power? Therein lies democracy and its various shades. We tend to use the word democracy as if it has one meaning when it has several.
Direct democracy, common in ancient Athens, was limited to majority rule decision-making by military-trained adult males only. This form of democracy is no longer in vogue. Representative democracy has representatives elected by the people to perform the work of government. A constitutional democracy has a constitution that outlines who will represent the people and how – a governance ‘how to’ manual.
Some claim there is also a monitory type of democracy, where government power is, according to political scientist John Keane, monitored by various ‘public and private agencies, commissions and regulatory mechanisms’.
What then of the EU? How democratic is it?
The use of vetoes gave each member state a say in certain policies and decisions. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said recently that national vetoes should no longer be viable if the EU wants to be a global political player. Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, he said the ‘selfish blockades’ used by member states against EU decisions should end. “We simply can no longer afford national vetoes, for example in foreign policy, if we want to continue to be heard in a world of competing great powers.”
Is this EU democracy or German-style democracy? Or a one-size-fits-all democracy (as long as it is drawn up by Germany)? When Covid was rampant German ‘democracy’ decreed that they would not share their PPE supplies with Italy. The latest is that Germany wants all EU countries to ration gas because their main supplier – Russia – is on the warpath. The depleting Russian supply to Germany is now causing some industries to reduce production.
EU ‘energy curfews’ will probably be introduced this winter. Russia supplies 40 percent of Europe’s gas. Already the EU has ruled that all underground gas storage in member states must be filled to 80 percent by October. Even that would be insufficient for some countries because of capacity differences.
Putin may be painted as the ‘bad boy’ in all of this but EU leaders have been more than silly, according to Thomas Fazi, writer (Reclaiming the State) and journalist.
“Put to one side the fact that waging ‘total economic and financial war’ on a nuclear-armed regional power that shares more than 2,000 kilometres of borders with Europe could hardly be considered a sensible move, it was glaringly obvious that cutting off Europe-Russia economic relations was going to hurt the former much more than the latter, given Europe’s dependency on Russian gas. Indeed, European leaders indirectly admitted this when they excluded Russian oil and gas exports from the sanctions regime.
“There’s something pathologically infantile about the behaviour of European leaders: they enjoy strutting around on the world stage and making grandiose speeches about ‘democracy standing up to autocracy’, and yet they don’t seem to be cognisant of the real-world consequences of their words.”
One can reminisce about ‘old-style democracy’ when we were growing up. Most countries ensured they had proper infrastructural supports to ensure citizens could live comfortably. These included health, education, transport, telecommunication and energy.
The EU introduced deregulation forcing member states to open up various utilities markets to competition. Countries cannot now financially assist companies that were once owned by the people, for the people. Yet, private companies who now own the utilities charge exorbitant prices. They have all reported huge increases in profits.
Has deregulation worked? For citizens no; for companies, yes. They are making ‘more money than God’, according to US President Joe Biden. Welcome to EUrocracy democracy.