Controlling Europe’s “Ministocracy”

The Challenge for the 1996 IGC – a briefing from the European Movement

The institutions of the European Union are in many ways well structured: designed to co-ordinate, propose, pass and enforce laws, they work reasonably enough. They have established and kept watch over a European rule of law unprecedented in its history.

But the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty has shown that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the institutions. We hear much criticism, particularly in Britain, about Europe’s “bureaucracy”. The European Commission, or “Brussels”, is regularly pilloried as consisting of officials out of control, trying to implement policies and laws without reference to any democratic institutions, dreaming up ridiculous schemes to standardise everything without anyone having the power to control them.

But we know two key facts: first, it is ministers meeting in the Council of Ministers who control European legislation; secondly, it is ministers, or more specifically government leaders, who determine Europe’s institutional structure.

The European legislative process is quite clear: whilst the European Commission can make proposals and the European Parliament can make amendments and has something verging on a veto in the Union Treaty, nothing can be brought into force without the consent of ministers meeting in the Council. The second point is that the Commission and European Parliament must operate in institutional circumstances they did not arrange. Ministers did that.

So ministers control the system but let the other institutions take the blame.

This should give us pause for thought. Perhaps rather than “Eurocrats” dominating the European Union this image is merely a smoke screen encouraged by ministers to protect a system of government that suits them rather well. Behind this they can operate beyond the reach of democratic accountability.

So how does this system work?

Read more here: ministocracy

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