EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On?
A New Government
The current machinery of government at the centre of the EU is probably the most contentious part of the whole EU experiment as far as the people are concerned. This structure was originally sold to the people as a mechanism to provide commonality where there is contention, provide interfaces between the nation states, and provide a common interface to the outside world. However the resultant structure mercilessly encroaches upon the sovereignty of the nation states, imposing rules upon the people of the nation states that the people expect to be considered by their own elected Parliament. What we actually have is a creeping expropriation of sovereignty of the nation states by an essentially unelected and faceless body – a United Europe through the back door, and without the consent of the people.
Currently each nation state has a national government elected by the people to represent their interests, debate requirements, pass laws, and secure the sanctity of the constitution. So why is this expensive body in Brussels assuming dominion over national policy? It is true that within each nation state the people appoint MEP’s to the Brussels machine to represent the people and reflect their views, but this is a materially imperfect system for a number of reasons. Firstly do the people take the election of MEP’s as seriously as they do their own Government – the evidence suggests that people still do not understand the process, and do not really see how it affects them. In the UK the election of MEP’s is not concurrent with a general election, and indeed can occur in the middle of a term of the current national government – the time at which the people can be expressing dissatisfaction with the national government. Thus it is not unreasonable to assume that the bulk of MEP’s could be members of the opposition party in the national government. We only need to look at the problems in the USA at this time as a result of the House of Representative being controlled by the Republican Party whilst the Senate is controlled by the Democrats – they neutralise each other, and thus the policies presented by the President. Is this really a mechanism for true representation of the people?
There are many forms of government systems operating in the world today. This blog attempts to define a parliamentary system of government suitable for a United States of Europe, and which embraces all of the relevant aspects of a modern and relevant democratic nation state. But first let us try to find an appropriate model upon which we can define and layer a government structure for our United States of Europe.
Without exhausting the word count of a blog in examination let me suggest that there is one tried and tested model which is accepted throughout the world – a multi-layered corporation. At the very top there is a Chairman/President, a Chief Executive, and a Board of Directors. For each subsidiary there is also a Chief Executive, and a Board of Directors. Typically the Chief Executive and Finance Director of the subsidiary will also be Board members of the parent company. For those who immediately say that these Boards are not elected please think of a public quoted company where the Board of Directors are elected by the stakeholders. As for those who say that a government has to consider welfare issues that would not be common to a corporate, I would remind them that until recent times there was most certainly a serious welfare dynamic to most corporates. It is only since the 1980’s, when shareholders became more global and thus faceless that profit/dividend became the driver and thus welfare provisions substantially reduce – but I have not lost hope that this will return as part of corporate responsibility.
The classic role of the Chairman/President is ambassadorial in that this person represents and promotes the face of the organisation to the outside world. This role is generally appointed, and need not be an executive role.
The Chief Executive has the responsibility to manage the corporation with the help of the directors, so his role is essentially inward looking. This role tends to be elected, on merit.
Can we develop a nation state government for our United States of Europe based on this known and trusted model?
A democratic nation state consists of a framework of government freely elected ‘by the people, for the people’ with oversight from an independent judiciary built on merit, not election.
In parliamentary systems of government, the legislature is formally supreme and appoints a member from its house as the prime minister who acts as the (chief) executive.
The primary components of a legislature are one or more chambers or houses: assemblies that can debate and vote upon bills. In most parliamentary systems, the lower house (Parliament) is the more powerful house while the upper house (Senate) is a chamber of review and advice.
Into this framework I propose to add an independent Central Bank whose duty is to manage the financial integrity of the country, issue and manage government debt, set interest rates, and maintain inflation within agreed guidelines.
The easiest way to differentiate the roles of the Parliament and the Senate is that the Parliament is the ‘voice of the people’ whereas the Senate is the ‘voice of experienced, considered reason’. Members of the Parliament are elected, and members of the Senate are appointed on merit.
In this structure the corporate Board of Directors is the Parliament. However, in a corporate the members of the Board are tried and tested professionals. Elected members of Parliament can come from all walks of life, are untested, might have no previous experience, and could just be career politicians. This does not promote the image of a safe pair of hands, thus the Senate (non-executive directors). The people in the Senate would comprise, by appointment and certainly on merit, people from a diverse range of backgrounds who have shown exception skill and wisdom in their life. This chamber would also contain representatives from the judiciary, and from each major religion to ensure that the Senate can be seen to have experience and integrity throughout the spectrum of the issues likely to be put before it.
Having an elected second chamber has proven a flaw in the USA constitutional structure resulting, on occasions such as now, with deadlock between the houses. The hereditary structure in the UK has all but been abandoned, but to move to an elected chamber would be a terrible mistake. A glimpse of this can be seen by the nature of the appointments to the House of Lords today. I think that the second chamber should have a committee that seeks out appropriate members, and then invites these people to become members of the chamber. Parliament should not be free to appoint their friends and party donors to the Senate.
Clearly a corporate board of directors does not consist of as many people as would be members of Parliament so a group of ministers would be selected, on merit, to form a cabinet under the prime minister, and these cabinet members would assume specific roles of government much like directors in a corporation.
How would this work in our United States of Europe? Firstly let us assume that each member state would retain a state assembly to address issues specific to the member state. Subsidiarity is a fundamental pillar of democracy, albeit that many countries struggle to find a balanced application of this principle. However a member state assembly would be the minimum layer underneath Parliament within this system, and in the UK, for example, all that would change in terms of subsidiarity would be that the current parliament would reduce to a member state assembly.
The electoral process needs to be relevant, and connect the people to their government. Therefore I am suggesting that only one set of elections occur for both the member state assembly and the Parliament. I further suggest that we can maximise the competence and integrity of the Parliament by changing the way that MEP’s are selected. My proposal is that the member state assembly be elected as per a general election, resulting in an incumbent executive and legislative. The majority political party would form a cabinet of ministers. This cabinet of ministers would then form the core of the representation in Parliament, spending a part of each month in Parliament, and the remainder in the member state assembly. In order to retain proportional representation in relation to population this core can be increased from other assembly members.
This structure ensures that the most capable political talent from each member state become the parliamentary representation of the people. The Prime Minister of Parliament would be determined by selection from the prime ministers of each member state.
I would suggest that Parliament and the member state assemblies serve for 5 year terms, and elections within each state occur at the same time. I also suggest that each member state be restricted to 3 political parties; a left of centre (Democrat), a right of centre (Conservative), and a centrist (Liberal). Fragmented multi-party governments have shown themselves to be ineffective because of the level of compromise to build a government – more compromise means more mediocrity and little effective output – Germany and Italy are good examples of this problem.
The benefit of this system is that it:
- directly connects the people with their Parliament;
- ensure the best possible members within the Parliament;
- ensures direct connectivity with the member state assemblies;
- is infinitely cheaper than the existing system.
You will note that I have not mentioned the Chairman (head of state). I think that an executive head of state is not necessary, and very difficult to sell to the people. Furthermore my previous blog of Republic versus Monarchy is a serious consideration in this process for a number of very relevant reasons. When considering, for example, an elected President of such a large and diverse culture country my thought go to the circus that occurs in the USA every 4 years. The process of selection takes 2 years costing an obscene amount of money. If an existing President is seeking re-election then they are not focussed on their role as executive for half of their term of office. The corporates who fund the campaigns expect a return on their investment should their candidate win, thus corrupting the democratic system. Furthermore a challenger for President would need to be wealthy in their own right thus limiting applications. This is not the way for the United States of Europe.
I commend this political structure to the community for analysis and comment.
Thank you for your continued interest in this European venture.
This blog is part of a series of blogs called ‘EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On?’ and which examine the framework for a truly United States of Europe, and what would be needed to achieve it. Look at the archive index to find other blogs in this series.
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