ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The European Union's Sham Democracy

Apathy has characterised voting in elections for the European Parliament in many countries in Europe. This was true in the June 2009 elections as well, which also saw the rise of the right wing parties.

COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW july 11, 2009 vol xliv no 2829the institutions of the EU operate, but they do know that electing members for the Eu-ropean Parliament is a farce of grand pro-portions – and thus they choose to abstain. Rise of the Right WingThe continuous rise of right-wing extrem-ist and fringe political parties, the mirror image of political apathy and abstention in the current political landscape of Europe, also speaks loudly and clearly, but in a perverse sort of way, to the betrayal of the European vision and the general disil-lusionment of citizens with established politics in general. With record unem-ployment rates, widespread social mal-aise, rising waves of crime and dramatic increases in illegal immigrants, racism, xenophobiaand violence will make their presence felt increasingly in a Europe fall-ing apart at the seams while the per-centage of citizens abstaining from the normal channels of political participation increases exponentially. The EU’s current condition and shape are hardly what was in the mind of Eu-rope’s post-war architects. Briefly, the EU is a treaty-based organisation which was set up after the second world war as a means of putting an end to the favourite practice of Europeans of sorting out their national differences by engaging in bloody warfare. Securing peace through the for-mation of a common market (which led eventually to economic unification) is an experiment that has produced remarkable results: Europe has experienced its long-est period of peace since the end of the second world war and war in the future among European member states seems a highly unlikely possibility.Of course, the absence of war among European nations in the post-war era and the historic developments towards Euro-pean integration that led eventually to the EU of today point largely in the direction of an established correlation rather than a causal relation between the two variables: the nature and structure of the world power system that emerged in the post-war era (with the US taking over the reins of global power, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation coming into play, and nuclear weapons having been invented) reduced substantially the prospects of renewed warfare among Europe’s traditional foes, and perhaps there is even something to be said about the deep and profound impact that the second world war must have had on the consciousness of European leaders and public alike.Likewise, the European integration ex-periment has made a difference, especial-ly in its early stages, to the economic and social development of the member states, including those who lie at the periphery of the European economy. However, the type of Europeanisation (that is, the process of creating European rules which are then imposed on national politics and policy-making) that has been designed and im-plemented since the signing of the Maas-tricht Treaty of 1992 and which operates on the basis of a highly centralised and largely unaccountable power structure is alien to the vision of a democratic Europe, and, in conjunction with institutionalised economic neoliberalism, is having detri-mental effects upon the ability of national governments to address effectively the specific needs of their own economies and societies, as the current global economic crisis so bluntly attests.Further, given the vast socio-economic and cultural differences that exist within the EU, Europeanisation exerts different kinds of pressures on the EU member states and the impact being felt varies con-siderably and to different degrees. Advan-ced developed economies are not only able to make an easier adjustment to the pres-sures of Europeanisation than peripheral economies, but can offer political institu-tional responses which can shift policy in an advantageous direction relative to their own interests.In the light of all of the above, European economic integration is at best an experi-ment of mixed results but the EU is a sham democracy all around. Social Democrats LoseFinally, the June 2009 Euro election re-sults produced another but less significant outcome: a decisive defeat dealt to the so-cialists/social democrats by the parties of the centre-right. The exception was Greece. In a record low turnout in the country, a thoroughly corrupt and incom-petent conservative government was soundly defeated by the equally thorough-ly corrupt and blatantly opportunistic so-cialists, who ruled the nation for most of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s and have made a comeback after having lost every election for the past five years. Every-where else in Europe, socialists/social democrats have every reason to wonder what went wrong. However, the defeat of the socialists in the 2009 Euro elections is not a surprising development and it certainly reflects something far deeper than “a sad evening for social democracy in Europe”, as Martin Schultz, a German lawmaker and head of the socialist bloc, put it. Indeed, it is high time that European socialists have a rude awakening and come to terms with what the British political philosopher John Gray declared long ago and the general public in Europe apparently already knows: So-cial democracy is dead. It died quite long ago and the prospects of its resurrection are certainly dim as long as the anti-democratic, neoliberal Europeanisation project continues unabated.EPW Archives (1966-1998) EPW is pleased to offer to its readers digitised pages of the journal from the years 1966-98.The archives are hosted at the EPW web site. Please see “Archives 1966-1998” on the home page. The address is: archives are available to all subscribers of EPW. They are hosted on a separate page and in a format different from the post-1999 archives.The pages for all the volumes for 1966-98 are now available.Readers are encouraged to read the detailed description of and introduction to the 1966-98 archives on the opening page of this section on the web site.Access to these archives is restricted to print/web subscribers of EPW.Please do subscribe to the journal to access these archives.

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