Power to the parliaments! But will Cameron’s EU partners join his crusade?

Collier's_1921_Vol_7_Frontispiece_--_Parliament_Buildings,_LondonDavid Cameron wants national parliaments to have more say in the EU, but other European capitals have little appetite for radical change. Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, Research Fellow at the Centre for European Reform, argues that he should instead focus on improving existing mechanisms for parliaments to influence draft EU legislation.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been touring European capitals to present his package for reforming the EU. Among other things, he wants a stronger role for national parliaments in the EU, but he has yet to make detailed proposals. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, calls this the “scoping stage” during which Cameron is testing Europe’s appetite for reforms. Continue reading

Why National Parliaments in the EU Should Be Empowered

big-benOn Monday 12 October 2015, a panel of experts will to discuss the role of national parliaments in the debate on the EU at an event at the UCL European Institute. Here, Sandra Kröger, lecturer in politics of the University of Exeter, talks about the ‘democratic disconnect’ in the European Union between domestic and EU-level political institutions. She proposes that national parliaments can, and should, be empowered, but also that national parliamentarians need to make better use of the powers already available to them by engaging more closely with EU affairs.

In early 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has publicly announced a referendum on European Union (EU) membership by the end of 2017 should he be re-elected in 2015. He has since linked the now certain referendum to the re-negotiation and eventual re-location of certain competences to the UK as well as the possibility, for the UK, to opt out of specific policies. Just how convincing such demands are in the light of the recent British government’s own balance of competences review not finding any competences that should be returned to Westminster is open to debate. Be that as it may, one central demand of Cameron is a ‘bigger and more significant role’ for National Parliaments (NPs), reflecting a desire for more national democracy. Continue reading

Catch-22: Give democracy a chance and keep Greece in the Euro

Ulrike Liebert, Professor in European Studies, looks at the tensions that are arising between the need for effective economic governance in the Eurozone and the need for democratic accountability, both of member states and the EU as a whole, particularly in the context of the outcome of the Greek referendum.

Eurozone leaders sometimes seem to forget that that they are governing an economic and monetary union that is part of the European Union of states and citizens, founded on common values such as ‘respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities’ (Art. 2 TEU).

The Greek population of 11 million represents a minority within the nineteen Eurozone states of some 300 million citizens, a minority which is deeply divided over the burdens which Eurozone rules require them to bear for the sake of the euro’s stability. The referendum of 5 July was an unprecedented instance of a plebiscite on Eurozone bailout conditions, and Eurozone leaders had no choice but to acknowledge it as a legitimate means of democracy. Greek voters turned out in unexpectedly high numbers and forcefully spoke their will.

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Greece: a crisis of trust?

Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, gives his view of what went wrong before and during the Greek crisis, and of the challenges that now lie ahead. To him the problem is centrally one of a lack of trust.

The Greek crisis goes back a long way, and at several stages demonstrated the dangers of a loss of trust.

The epic began with the creation of the euro, which was set up without several of the trust-generating stabilisers of national currencies: a common fiscal policy, a central ministry of finance and a central bank empowered to act as a lender of last resort.  Without these essentials, the euro lacked the full and credible commitment of all its members, an essential prerequisite of mutual trust. A member nation could no longer cope with serious crises by devaluing its currency, yet no provision was made for a solidarity fund (the euro equivalent of the IMF) to deal with crises collectively.

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Greece, the EU, and the Democratic Conundrum

In this post, Nicola Countouris, Reader at the UCL Faculty of Laws, analyses the reasons why the Greeks may have rejected the creditor institutions’ economic and reform proposals. Arguing that frustration is not the only explanation for Tsipras’  win at the ballot box, and recognising the daunting challenge that lie ahead of the 19 Eurozone democracies, he argues that Europe’s constitutional envelope can be spacious enough to accommodate different versions of democratic economic and human aspirations.

For the second time in six months the Greeks have voted for a political project (which many have and will continue to describe as a ‘political adventure’) that runs against the grain of the unanimous expectations and imperatives of the EU institutions, the IMF, and the bulk of both centre-right and centre-left European governments. Against the odds, against the economic and reform instructions imparted by the lending institutions, and – many will say – against their best interest, the Greeks have refused to conform, and have flatly rejected on two occasions now, the politics of austerity.

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