EU may need reform but it is democratic

 

Sir, – We are faced with many political challenges, both domestically and internationally, and one of the most significant difficulties in responding to these is the use of blanket terms of description, such as widespread references to unelected and unaccountable elites in the EU institutions, with the implied assertion that these have the power to overrule democratically elected representatives. This has been a prominent argument in the Brexit debate in the UK, and it also crops up regularly on this page when EU matters are discussed.

Acceptance of such terms, and the attribution to these entities of both blame and powers of obstruction, do nothing to further the creation of solutions and prevent a more detailed analysis of where the power to affect such solutions may lie.

In what way, exactly, are the EU institutions unaccountable?

The final decision-making bodies, the Councils of Ministers, are the elected representatives of the (current) 28 member countries.

The commissioners, the heads of departments, are the political appointees of the same member countries. In that role they must act as civil servants, but clearly, collectively they have a detailed knowledge of the needs and concerns of all EU citizens.

The European Parliament is directly elected by the citizens of the member countries.

For those who doubt the democratic role of this body just watch the ways in which anti-EU parties in various countries will promote their candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary elections as a means of thwarting those EU policies which they do not favour.

Criticism of some current EU policies and practices is well justified, eg the absence of proactive policies to counter inequalities in wealth and income, slow responses in creating social programmes to deal with the job-displacement threats from new technologies such as artificial intelligence, and a managerial rather than a humanitarian response to the rapid rise in immigration.

All of these issues have gained a high degree of visibility and, although there may be a lack of consensus, there is no shortage of viable options regarding solutions, always bearing in mind that there are no perfect answers.

And it must be acknowledged that the current wave of anti-EU sentiment has played a very valuable role in crystalising the issues.

The political authority to face these challenges via the existing elected institutions certainly exists. Whether the members of those institutions choose to exercise it is another question. To suggest that they are being prevented from doing so by some hidden forces is nonsense.

Does anybody seriously believe that the combined forces of our elected representatives is being obstructed by unelected and unaccountable bureaucratic elites? – Yours, etc,

JOHN CASEY,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.