I was at the second and third days of the European People’s Party Congress in Bucharest, Romania last week.
It was a huge, and well organised, event which took place the massive building of the Romanian Parliament.
I spoke at a meeting, on the fringe of the Congress, on the euro crisis.
I said that the move to centralise control of government spending, and of structural reforms, was necessary to get the euro crisis under control.
But I argued that it would not be politically viable in the longer run, unless it was accompanied by a visible, and dramatic, improvement in EU wide democracy.
I said that decisions about spreading the tax burden, or opening markets to competition, involved taking resources and opportunities from some people, and giving them to others. Such decisions needed always to be, and to be seen to be, politically and democratically legitimated.
I argued that elections to the European Parliament were not sufficient legitimation for decisions that would be taken for all of Europe and for individual countries by the Commission, in a bargaining session behind closed doors in the Council of Ministers or in negotiations between civil servants.
I said that a European Parliament election did not create sufficient legitimation for the types of decision that were now to be taken at EU level. As presently arranged, European Parliament elections did not give citizens the sense that they could vote in, or vote out, the people who made decisions at EU level, in the same way as they could at national or local level.
The European Parliament election was really 27 different national elections, not a truly European one. It was not like a US Presidential election, where every American had to make the same choice, whatever state they live in.
In the absence of such a direct choice, people question the democratic legitimacy of EU level decisions, in a way that they do not question national or local decisions.
I suggested a way to solve the problem.
At the moment the President of the Commission is selected by 27 heads of government behind closed doors, and then voted on, in a one candidate vote by the European Parliament.
I proposed that he or she should be directly elected by the people of the EU in an open, contested, multi candidate election, and every adult European having a vote.
Single candidate elections may have been enough for some people in the Soviet Union, but they are not the way to run the EU in the 21st century!