One of the more revealing aspects of Europe’s financial crisis has not been the extent to which many European nations had embraced overly generous government spending and centralized power, but the lengths Europe’s unelected elite go to bully uncooperative countries. That the European Commission and the European Parliament have contempt for democracy and the concept of the nation-state is not a novel revelation. Ireland, France, and the Netherlands have all been told to overturn, ignore, or reschedule referenda that did not conform to the desires of central planners. These same unelected officials have not only argued against democracy in Italy and Greece, but have threatened countries that have only recently emerged from communist dictatorships who have embraced democracy too tightly. It is refreshing to see leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban fighting back against the overbearing giant that is the European Union, but it is unlikely to prompt any change to the European political project.
Herman Von Rompuy, the unelected European Council President, flippantly exclaimed that Italy did not need elections after Berlusconi was ousted, saying that “the country needs reforms, not elections.” The current Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, is not only himself unelected, but his entire cabinet does not include a single elected representative and no politicians whatsoever. What is more worrying that this brazen lack of respect for democracy is how close Monti is to the European apparatus, having served as a European Commissioner and being asked by the Barroso Commission to write a report on the future of the single market.
Greeks now live under a government run by an unelected prime minister. Like Monti, Lucas Papademos is a product of centralized European power, having worked at the European Central Bank for close to a decade before being appointed as advisor to the Prime Minister he eventually replaced.
When Von Rompuy was announced as the European Council President the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, gave a speech that has become something of a YouTube hit. In the speech Farage not only claimed that Von Rompuy had “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.” but accurately predicted that Von Rompuy intended to be the “quiet assassin of European democracy.” It seems that Farage was mostly right, except that the assassination is not that quiet.
One of the most depressing acts of European overreach can be seen in Hungary, a country where a popular government is coming under pressure from unelected bodies to abandon democratic processes and national sovereignty.
Hungary recently approved a constitution that allows for the Hungarian legislature to nominate the monetary council of the Hungarian central bank. Whatever your opinion on the best way to run a central bank, I hope most would accept that it is up to the constituents of the affected country to decide. Not so in Europe. On Wednesday, the EU suspended $655 million of funds to Hungary because of its budget deficit spending. Hungary is also under pressure to change parts of its new constitution, which EU technocrats consider too authoritarian, a rather ironic decision on the part of an organization that has a demonstrated authoritarian tendency of its own. I elaborate on the situation in Hungary in the forthcoming April edition of The American Conservative.
The European debt crisis will be a setback to the experiment the European technocrats are currently conducting. However, it will not hinder the slow dismantling of the nation state or the democratic process. The economic crisis might have hurt the European Union economically, but it has proved as a great excuse for undemocratic reforms that could unfortunately become normalized.