EU Institutions vs. Democracy

The Eurocrats no longer pretend that democratic legitimacy is necessary. It is enough that the club outvotes the people, who remain disenfranchised on the sidelines. In this manner, the Tusk affair sheds perfect light on the inner machinations of the European Union

By Marek Jan Chodakiewicz l March 29, 2017

EU Institutions vs. DemocracyPoland’s former prime minister, Donald Tusk, reelected European Union Council President without Poland’s support

Representatives of twenty-seven EU countries voted for the reelection of Donald Tusk to the European Council against the express wishes of the country he was supposed to represent: Poland. But, it is now obvious, he does not represent his country of origin.

Instead, we witness yet another charade, and a tug of war between the global elitists and the local people of Europe. The Eurocrats no longer pretend that democratic legitimacy is necessary. It is enough that the club outvotes the people, who remain disenfranchised on the sidelines. In this manner, the Tusk affair sheds perfect light on the inner machinations of the European Union.

This prompts a question: who nominated Tusk? No-one really knows. The rules are unclear, or perhaps they don’t exist. Hitherto, all successive candidates for the presidency of the EC enjoyed the backing of their national governments. That most likely allowed one to dispense with the rules and, instead, to treat the vote as a pro forma gesture in the affirmative as an expression of the EU consensus. But now, because of the Poles, there was no consensus.

So, who nominated Tusk? The most obvious choice is Germany, as far as nation states.

As Poland’s prime minister, Tusk’s sycophancy toward Berlin was legendary, although he was a bit less obsequious with Moscow. German leader Angela Merkel kept curiously quiet until the vote was in, when she congratulated the liberal politician from Poland upon his reelection. That Germany was behind his candidacy can be suggested indirectly by referring to Hungary’s stance.

The affirmative votes for Tusk included Hungary, which was a personal blow to Jarosław Kaczyński and his followers, who had faithfully backed Budapest through thick and thin. Warsaw’s blank check to the Magyars may be now cancelled, as it must be finally obvious to the Polish government that Viktor Orban is playing his own game. Either he did not want to be embarrassed by participating in a high-profile defeat, or he did not wish to antagonize the sponsors of Donald Tusk. Most likely both factors figured. Since Orban harbors an ambition to serve as a conduit between Berlin and Moscow, that further suggests the reasons for what the Polish Law and Justice views as a serious betrayal.

Yet, Tusk also ingratiated himself with the Eurocrats. They find him amiable and pliable. He neither offends nor interferes. His liberal ideology squares quite well with the fuzzy post-Marxist platitudes of the European elites, as described by Paul Gottfried. In a word, Tusk is a perfect figurehead in a perfectly obfuscated institution. So, what is the European Council?

A Bureaucratic Maze

A bit of explaining is due because of the twisted Byzantine nature of the institutions afflicting Europe. The European Council (EC) is neither the Council of Europe (CE) nor the Council of the European Union (CEU) nor the European Commission (EComm). None should be confused with the European Parliament (EP). Each body is relevant to the story, however, directly or indirectly, and, thus, each demands our scrutiny. Each body overlaps with the others to an extent. They support one another. And, indeed, they feed off each other in a variety of ways, reinforcing the “European project,” which is hostile to sovereignty and nationalism.

Global Governance

The Council of Europe is an international body to support Europe’s democracy, freedom, culture, and human rights. Its membership is comprised of 47 states (most of them from the EU). Its ruling bodies are the Committee of Ministers, which are comprised of foreign secretaries/ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly consisting of parliamentarians delegated from each member country. The CE makes no laws but – through its European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) – it can enforce Europe’s human rights legislation. And at the EU level, it is the European Commission that initiates legislation.

In practice, it means that the ECHR can legally pursue anyone in the world found violating such legislation. The European Commission and the European Council, through the ECHR, thus endeavor to dabble not only in European but also in global governance. In other words, whatever silliness passes for “human rights” du jour in Europe becomes projected onto the world. And even Americans can be held accountable if they are found in violation of such new standards, e.g., CIA officers involved in extraordinary rendition operations in Europe.

The European Commission (EComm) runs the European Union on a daily basis. Its role is similar to that of the Central Committee of a Communist party. The EComm consists of about 23,000 bureaucrats divided into “directorates,” which mirror government ministries. In essence, the European Commission is supposed to work as the government of the European Union. It tends to everyday issues; it proposes laws; and it executes directives of the Commissioners who head EComm. The Council of the European Union (CEU) nominates the Commissioners; however, the President of the EComm is tapped by the European Council (EC) and approved by the European Parliament.

Next, the Council of the European Union (CEU), or the Concilium/Council of Ministers is a counterpart to the European Parliament. It was envisioned as an upper House, or a Senate, in the future bicameral structure. For now, it largely serves as a forum for European cabinets. The members of the CEU are simply all cabinet ministers from all member states. They participate in the forum whenever demanded. Which ministers are delegated to attend the CEU depends on the topic at hand. If the Concilium deliberates on defense issues, it is the defense ministers who attend; if trade is a topic, it is the trade ministers who congregate. The Presidency of the body rests with a relevant national minister and rotates every six months. The Secretary General keeps order. However, national foreign ministers answer to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs (HRFA), who permanently chairs the Foreign Affairs Council.

Then, there is Donald Tusk’s European Council (EC)

Compared to the CEU, where cabinet ministers congregate, the EC is a club for the crème de la crème. It provides a venue to associate and commune for prime ministers, presidents, and monarchs of the member states of the European Union. This is where the heads of state belong by the grace of their national voters (except for the unelected royals, mostly constitutional, who are there as window dressing to the bygone era). In addition, the participants include, obviously, the EC President, the EComm President, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

In addition to participating in the EC, HRFA simultaneously serves as an ex-officio vice-president of the EComm. Yet, not only the Eurocratic high brows, but also the heads of state behave as if they were beholden only to themselves, and not to the people who put them there.

In this tangle of bureaucrats, where is democracy at the EU?

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is a Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, A Graduate School of National Security and International Affairs in Washington, DC, where he holds the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies. He teaches a directed study on the European Union at IWP. Dr. Chodakiewicz is author of Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas and teaches a seminar on the history of the Muslim world at Patrick Henry College. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the Online-Conservative-Journalism Center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.