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The Democratic Deficit (June 5, 1989)

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When Social Democratic environmental expert Beate Weber once dared to enter the special ministers’ council, she was politely but firmly ushered out.

The reason being: the Council’s executive branch is at the same time the legislature. The ministerial bureaucracy, with its ministers and undersecretaries at the top, passes the EC laws without any disruptive participation by the parliaments.

Only a fraction of the new regulations are even considered by the ministers in their council sessions. Eighty percent of the provisions are negotiated in the 150 working groups compromised by the Council’s public servants and then passed in the EC ambassadors’ committee, a body of top-level diplomats.

The Eurocrats – they are not just the Commission’s 12,000 public servants who administer the EC budget, monitor the implementation of norms that are passed, and draft new regulations and agreements.

The Eurocrats – they are also the roughly 2,000 employees of the Council secretariat who are responsible for the orchestration of dozens of conferences of the various ministerial councils and the supervision of the working groups, as well as the completion of the preliminary work for the Council presidency – currently held by the Spaniards – which rotates every six months.

The Eurocrats – they are, finally, the divisions of Brussels-bound national civil servants who haggle with their Brussels colleagues behind the closed doors of the Charlemagne Building over the form of the Single European Market.

[ . . . ]

The minutes of the Council sessions are so “secret” that not even the members of the European parliament get to read them. “How can decisions be monitored at all with this way of doing things?” asks Social Democrat Thomas von der Vring.

Bonn’s opposition leader Hans-Jochen Vogel also carps that “pre-democratic conditions” prevail in Brussels. When Europe’s citizens vote in June, they will only be deciding on the composition of the relatively powerless parliament in Strasbourg, not on the politics of the Community. Political policy is developed in the Commission, the (premier) EC administrative body, which has long been seen by both Bonn and Paris as a bastion of extraordinary inefficiency.

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