Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.How odd. I thought being part of the European Union meant that those European values among which democracy and human rights come top are secure for ever. You mean member states are capable of reverting to their own historical precedents? Who knew?
In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money.
There are a couple of aspects to this event that need to be noted. In the first place, President Barroso is not an elected president of anything, let alone the European Union, so the notion of him pontificating about democracy is absurd.
Secondly, he was addressing trade union chiefs. Whatever may have been the case long in the past, recent experience with trade unions is that they are not precisely in favour of democracy either within their own ranks or outside them. In fact, this briefing is about as undemocratic as can be, not because President Barroso is not allowed to brief trade union chiefs but because it is all part and parcel of the EU's effort to create a post-democratic structure of civil society organizations, set up by the Commission in the first place, consulting and being briefed by the self-same Commission as a substitute for accountable democracy.
Thirdly, the EU is and has always been an undemocratic, indeed an anti-democratic structure. What he means by democracy disappearing is that the democratic institutions that have already been hollowed out by the EU might disappear. That is not the same thing at all.
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