Reading the "EU-Observer", in my opinion the best web-based daily about what is happening in and to the Eureopean Union, (save for its focusing on NORTHERN European issues exclusively), very often, I fall into subtle comments, written by a Mr. Peter Sain ley Berry (photo). Like the "EU-Observer", he is independent and not sold to Pfizer and Microsoft, as (another web-based EU-daily) "Euractiv" is. On the political spectrum, I locate him among "liberals" in the Dutch D'66 mood. In the UK, that would be the Liberal Democrats. But I may very well miss my point, for, as I discovered, he is a Welsh politician, and Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh people tend to have a more open attitude to continental Europe than home-bred English citizens. He features a website, devoted to international human rights and development issues (EuropaWorld). The EU is only a sideline for him, it seems.
His latest comment, featured by the EU-Observer, struck me as particularly to the point.
Mr. ley Berry claims that, in 2005, a European "demos" (people) has emerged. Not out of a common ideal, but out of common complaints. Complaints about the foggy criteria for EU enlargement, for common responsability and for social and security standards. Complaining together is not the same thing as striving together, but, at least, it is having something together. And this togetherness is new. It did not exist before.
That demos could become the basis for a new power (kratos) in Europe. Without demos, no democracy. The European Parliament could be reinforced and gain more power. Comparing the Chirac and the Merkel proposals for relaunching the dynamics of the European construction, Sain ley Berry opts for the Merkel approach. Chirac's suggestions boil down to "cherrypicking" some non-controversial elements from the Constitutional Treaty proposals, whereas Merkel's would preserve the construction as a whole, adding some explanations on the subject of the social values to be preserved and developed.
Essentially, this is also the way that is being proposed by EP-rapporteurs Duff (LibDem, UK, see also my previous post) and Johannes Voggenhuber (Green, Austria). Their "roadmap"-proposal includes an intensive EU-wide discussion in 2006-2007 and updates to the treaty about social issues. Mr. ley Berry submits two more proposals for constitutional updates: one about enlargement and another about transparency, i.e.: reinforcement of the central European administration (foreign and security policies) and a genuine democratic controlling system to accompany that.
In my opinion, these are essential elements of a renewed debate on the EU structure and role. Governments will not be happy with these elements, that is for sure. But they will have to choose: Either they take a genuine responsibility for Europe, including before their parliaments, or, they leave these overall European responsabilities to the European Parliament and/or an European Senate.
An Europe-wide referendum in 2009 could finally legitimate those changes and become a basis for the expression of the will of the newly emerged EuroDemos.
A dream? Yes. But a realistic one. More connected to reality, than the Dutch Government's decalation that the Constitutional Treaty is "dead". Pandora's box is open, and it cannot be closed by statement: a "demos" is born.