Get conservative British journalists to write about European Union matters and you can mostly count on a biased rant that disregards most of the relevant facts. The latest article in the Economist’s Charlemagne Blog is another great example of this.
In this piece the author even manages to pull off an especially difficult trick: Swiping at the EU for being a non-issue (normally Europe at least has to feature in a debate to be blamed for something). And this time around, the European Parliament (EP) was the target:
Regular readers can attest to my deep and abiding disdain for the European Parliament, a real failure as a parliamentary assembly and place of meaningful democratic debate. Some may have attributed this to shocking Euroscepticism on my part. Well, here is pro-European Nick Clegg on the place:
He was elected in 1999, and remained in Brussels until 2004, but says he came to realise that the European Parliament ‘was not the type of politics that interests me. You have no meaningful relationship with your constituents. It’s very bloodless. And I didn’t go into politics to become a legislator.’
Bloodless. That’s about right.
Unfortunately, this is where the argument ends. The European Parliament certainly has its severe problems (it is nevertheless not right to call it bloodless) but the big question is why? The EP can only do what it is allowed to according to the treaties. And these treaties are decided by national governments and ratified nationally. So its activity limits are set for it.
And correct me if I am wrong, but I cannot remember that the Economist campaigned for more rights for the EP to make it a more meaningful place for democracy in the long run-up to the Lisbon Treaty. I have never come across an Economist article arguing that the EP should have the right to introduce legislation itself (rather than just the Commission), or that it should be allowed to decide on certain matters on its own (without the Council in the co-decision procedure).
The majority of British journalists write against giving up sovereignty or decision-making competencies to EU institutions and then complain about their deficiencies. Sorry, but you cannot have it both ways.