Well done, Cyprus Today, for publishing the splendidly-argued letter from Prof Julian Saurin (Cyprus Today, January 5, 2019), painstakingly refuting, point by point, some of the grosser “serial mistakes” made over the years by this newspaper’s regular opinion columnists, who, to a man, express their hostility to the European Project, which commendably aims at promoting greater social, political and economic harmony among those nation states which are its members.
We wait with interest to see whether any of them will in fact “say sorry” (as Prof Saurin puts it) or whether they will simply persist with these “alternative facts” that they have disseminated for so long. John Hughes-Wilson, in the same edition of Cyprus Today, quotes in support of his own essentially anti-EU thesis Ronan McCrea, Professor of Constitutional and European Law at University College, London.
However, the same Prof McCrea focuses on one of the very claims repeatedly made by your columnist, when he provides a very different picture and sets the record straight in his article, “You can’t blame Brussels for Brexit” (June 30, 2016). It makes instructive reading (my emphases in italics): “The claim that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable is made so often it seems to be an accepted background to any discussion of the Union. The charges levelled against it assert that EU institutions are unelected, unaccountable, and that EU democracy is a sham.
“All EU institutions consist of people who are either elected or nominated by those who are elected. The European Parliament is directly elected. The Council of Ministers consists of elected members of national governments. The European Commission is nominated by elected governments and is responsible to the European Parliament, which can force it to resign.
“Political change in the EU happens slowly. If European voters were to swing heavily to the left there would not be an individual, satisfying moment of political theatre when left-wing forces took control. Instead, bit by bit, as each country elected a leftwing government, the voting balance in the Council of ministers would shift leftwards.
“This lacks the political theatre of national politics, but it is democratic European voters who ultimately decide the make-up of EU institutions.
“It is not clear that the EU is any less accountable than national governments. The Commission is accountable to the Parliament, which has very significant powers to amend and veto legislation. National governments are accountable to their parliaments for their actions in the Council of Ministers.”
Here then are the facts, as a permanent corrective to any “fake news” we might in future be served up. I leave the last word with Professor McCrea, who concludes that, if a national parliament does not hold its own government to account, that national parliament will exercise limited control. That will then be the fault of the nation’s politicians, not of the EU.
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