Sven Giegold: The following answer of Sven Giegold to Yanis Varoufakis reply was originally published by Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), shortly before the official launch of DiEM25 on February the 9th 2016. The wohle conversation between Sven Giegold and Yanis Varoufakis is documented here on Sven Giegolds blog (licence n©*).
Thanks for your rapid response.
On democratic legitimacy
We do disagree on the role of the European bureaucracy. Obviously, I agree the Troika has made unacceptable mistakes but and it acted with the support of majorities in national parliaments and the European Parliament. The Eurozone Working Group, headed by Thomas Wieser, which you quoted, is an excellent example. The Eurozone Working Group is not transparent but it is not the “Brussels bureaucrat” Wieser who really takes the decisions. He is acting under the auspices of representatives of all finance ministries in the Eurozone which form the Eurozone Working Group. And those are following the orders of their national finance ministries. At least in the case of Germany I have discussed with all the acting persons: Obviously, Mr. Schäuble does not follow all details, of which some are important, but he certainly agrees with the general lines of his services and he is backed in this by a majority in the Bundestag. The Bundestag has taken its role seriously to control the German government with its positions in the Council, but unfortunately the majority of the Bundestag tended to demand even more austerity than the government. Equally the finance ministers in France and Italy could have stopped the direction of Troika policies if they had wanted.
Equally, the European Parliament is not as powerless as you indicate. It is tasked to control the European institutions (Art. 14 TEU), it can block the budget and put money into reserve, it can leverage its power in legislation and it can even dismiss the European Commission (art 234 TFEU). The sad truth is that the majority in the European Parliament – here conservatives, liberals and moderate eurosceptics – supported the austerity policies and therefore the European Parliament has not used its powers to change the austerity policies.
Therefore, I conclude: It is populist to put the responsibility on the “Brussels bureaucrats” which often does an important and indispensable service. We have to face it: The failed and unjust austerity policies were a result of decisions taken by democratically elected governments and in many member states they were backed by majorities in their respective electorates.
I agree with you that the lack of transparency in the European decision making has helped to stabilise these pro-austerity majorities. Therefore, it is critical that the Eurogroup and its preparatory bodies are becoming truly transparent. And if DiEM can contribute to achieve this it would be a clear step forward. It is also crucial that the European Parliament gets additional rights in this regard. I am convinced that a public vote in the European Parliament on any programme of structural reform would have been more reasonable than the ones which were backed by national governments and parliaments only.
Obviously democratic majorities in parliaments or the public is not sufficient to constitute legitimacy of political decisions. The Troika programmes have violated fundamental rights in several respects. This could be tested though going to the European Court of Justice. Any progressive government in Europe could and should do this. In the European Parliament there is no majority for such a step.
Of course I know your “modest proposal” and I agree with you that there several areas of EU policies where Europe could and should decentralise decision making powers e.g. when it comes to public services and local authorities. But, there are more important fields of policy where we need more common European decision making such as fighting tax dumping, common investment policies, common foreign policy and fighting climate change and organised crime together. Your manifesto calls thankfully for a strong democratic Europe. But at the same time the manifesto claims in general language national sovereignty. Here, your manifesto is unfortunately contradictory and makes false promises. No nation state can exert its sovereignty nationally alone. It is neither right nor progressive to claim otherwise.
On the constitutional assembly
The Treaties foresee a constitutional assembly (“convention”) but in another composition than you propose. I am convinced that the rule of law is fundamental to build Europe. Europe cannot be constructed successfully through the logic of rupture. Rupture is much more likely to lead to disintegration and conflict between nations. Therefore, all who want to change Europe and its institutions should not vaguely call for a rupture but to use the plentiful options for change which the treaties foresee. Calling for a rupture in the existing European process risks new nationalisms rather than democratic deepening. Ironically this is just the same risk of renationalisation that the unjust and flawed Troika programmes cause.
Concerning the transparency of DiEM itself: I have rarely seen collectively written poems. Therefore, it would be interesting and transparent to see your original draft of the manifesto and to learn who has suggested the changes which lead to unfortunate sovereignist text in the final text. This would be a clear proof of walk your talk and of your commitment to transparency.
Lastly, I want to firmly reject your personalising of my comments. By linking my arguments to “neon-lit corridors” in Bruxelles you move unfortunately beyond respectful debate.
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