Very good piece in the Irish Times today by John O’Brennan of NUI Maynooth, on the scale and dimensions of the democratic deficit that attaches to the Fiscal Compact… In effect he argues that it will dramatically sideline European Commission where smaller countries like Ireland can at least broker some national influence on the EU:
It is important to point out that the fiscal treaty represents a dramatically significant break with the existing EU governance architecture. Chancellor Merkel, in particular, has favoured moving from the traditional “community method” to what is termed the “union method”. The “community method” is the EU sphere where laws are enacted by the Council of Ministers (representing member state governments) in conjunction with the European Parliament (representing citizens).
These laws are enacted on the basis of proposals generated by the European Commission, which is enjoined by the treaties to act in the European interest. Implementation and compliance is in the remit of both the commission and the European Court of Justice; national public administrations also play an important role in a system that revolves around a search for consensus.
But this “community method” (which has served Irish interests so well over 40 years of membership) has now given way to the “union method” of decision-making. France and Germany effectively reconfigured their approach to EU governance as both Chancellor Merkel and then French president Sarkozy wanted more De Gaulle and less Monnet, more intergovernmental decision-making (where they could dominate) and less of the supranational collectivism that distinguished the community method.
The weakening of the position of the European Commission, already apparent and made explicit in the rules governing inter-institutional responsibilities in the fiscal treaty, is a particular concern for Ireland and other small states, as the commission has always acted to defend the integrity of the community method and to ensure that the rights of small states are protected.
But then, as Ronan Lyons points out (H/T Neville), rather starkly, the cost of pulling out of that shift from community to Union’ will extract a hell of a price…