Rudderless EU is stifled by bureaucracy
Considering our geographical position, it seems bizarre that we in Britain are so ready to snigger at the ongoing Eurozone debt crisis. We might be removed from the mainland – separated from Calais by the protective moat which we call the English Channel – but long before the conception of the Channel Tunnel, the futures of Britain and its major European counterparts were inextricably linked.
From the establishment of the ECSC in 1951, to the creation of the Euro, prosperity through liberal economics and free trade has been the European Union’s driving force. Not content with economic co-operation, there are an increasing number of Europhiles on the continent who are keen to engender closer political integration; however, the severe economic difficulties which have engulfed Europe have served to highlight the fact that any real increase in the political power of the EU’s institutions is still a long way off.
On the face of it, one would think that the onset of a massive debt crisis would provide our representatives in Brussels with the perfect opportunity to show that they have the ability to fight to help improve the lives of ordinary Europeans without prejudice or favour shown to individual member states.
However, top EU politicians such as President Herman Von Rompuy, who are calling for more power to be handed to various EU institutions, are putting the cart before the horse. The EU has been, and continues to be, a primarily economic union, and if they want to increase Brussels’ political clout they not only need to show greater leadership during this current crisis, but they must reduce the ludicrous layers of bureaucracy that leave the EU open to so much ridicule from the tabloid press and others.
The EU’s biggest ‘white elephant’ is a monthly event which sees the entire European Parliament travel to Strasbourg at a cost of £160 million per year. This charade is even protected by articles embedded in EU treaties. As long as the EU is prepared to waste such an extraordinary amount of money purely to stroke France’s ego, even the most absurd tabloid claims will continue chime true.
Another stumbling block to further political integration is the complexity of EU institutions. There are five different Presidents of the EU and a plethora of political institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission – four entirely distinct, if similar-sounding organisations. Until this organisational hotchpotch is reformed into one simple, efficient system which is seen to positively impact upon the day-to-day lives of European citizens, there will never be a groundswell of support to give more political power to EU institutions.
Whether the leaders in Brussels have the will or political skill to push for positive reforms to solve these endemic problems is currently unclear. It would, however, be a good start to take the lead in tackling the current economic crisis – something which they have categorically failed to do thus far. Before we can even begin to consider giving up further powers, the leaders of the European Parliament are going to have to step up and be more vocal on streamlining operations in Brussels and eradicating such wasteful jaunts as Strasbourg.