There is an insidious trend in the EU Institutions. After successive rebuffs in EU referenda in several countries over many years, the EU is giving up on democracy as we know it — or as some of them prefer to call it, “representative democracy”, people voting in polling booths. The problem is, all too often the people get the wrong answer. They knock back important EU initiatives like the Maastricht Treaty (Holland 1992), or the Nice Treaty (Ireland, 2001), or the euro (Sweden, 2003), or the Constitution (France and Holland, 2005). And at euro-election time, they return horrid euro-sceptics like Roger Helmer and Dan Hannan.
These issues are all too complex and difficult for the man in the street, say the apparatchiks. Who understands the Treaty of Nice? Who has even read it? Today as I write (June 12th), the Irish go to the polls. And indeed the apparatchiks have a point. Vox Pop interviews from Dublin streets have a recurring theme “We don’t really know what we’re voting about”. Better let the wise and the good decide for us, as Gordon Brown has done in the UK. Referendum? What Referendum?
But this is a dangerous road to start out on. Certainly, the Nice Treaty is complicated — and mind-numbingly tedious. But so are general election manifestos. Running a country is as complicated as drawing up an EU Treaty. If one is too difficult for ordinary folk, then so is the other. The argument against referenda can be recruited as an argument against democracy generally. Complicated as the Treaty is, the question can be put fairly in very straight terms. Do you want more powers for Brussels, or not? Put that way, it’s an easy question, with a very clear answer.
Today, Thursday June 12th, sees not only the Irish referndum, but also the start of the two-day “Agora on Climate Change” here in Brussels. “Agora” is a pretentious word for a conference or seminar. It is also part of the EU’s answer to the democracy problem. Let’s start to replace tiresome representative democracy with a modern, up-dated, 21st century alternative — participative democracy. Let’s invite “civil society organisations” to confer in Brussels, sound out opinion, and proceed accordingly.
The only problem is, what is civil society? I know what people are. I represent 4.2 million of them. Taken collectively, they constitute society — and many of them are perfectly civil. But the EU means something entirely different. It means NGOs. It means activists and busybodies. And the great majority of the NGOs that it deals with turn out to be partly or wholly funded — you guessed it — by the European Commission. They are in hock to it. They are beholden to it. They tell it what it wants to hear.
I do not say that all NGO activists are venal, though I daresay some of them are. But the first purpose of any NGO is to survive, and for that they need money. The fact of being paid inevitably if subtly changes the attitude of the payee to the paymaster. Not surprisingly, the assembled NGOs tell the Commission broadly what it wants to hear. It is like the Hall of Mirrors at the fair-ground, where the Commission can bask in slightly distorted reflections of its own views. That is the new model of democracy which the European Institutions are promoting. It would be hurtful, but accurate, to compare it with the 1930s Italian Fascist model of Corporatism.
At the Agora on Climate Change, only one organisation (so far as I know) which takes a sceptical view of anthropogenic global warming has slipped under the bar, and that is The Freedom Association, which I have the privilege to chair. And in case you were wondering — No, we don’t receive a penny from the Commission! I should like to thank long-time activist Councillor Derek Tipp from Hampshire for coming to Brussels on behalf of TFA.
For those who would like a genuinely alternative view on the Climate Change question from the one relentlessly peddled by the alarmists, check this link to my June 23rd Conference in Brussels. We will have Professor Fred Singer, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Virginia. He will be well worth hearing.
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- My final speech in Strasbourg – Two-seat parliament a perfect metaphor for the hubris and futility of EU project
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