Priest and politician, Hanne Dahl is critical to the EU, but is not opposed to Danish membership of the EU. She specialises in issues surrounding democracy and centralisation in the EU. Dahl began her political career as a candidate for parliament for the Demokratisk Fornyelse party in 1998. After veteran MEP Jens-Peter Bonde stood down from his membership to the European Parliament, Dahl took his place as the June Movement’s MEP. In addition Hanne Dahl is a diligent debater and a writer on EU related matters, she often comments on the EU in various Danish newspapers.
Hanne Dahl is a Member of the European Parliament for the Danish June Movement, and is a member of the EP's Constitutional Affairs Committee.
The problems of the Lisbon Treaty are manifold, and relate to very many different topics. But the most important are the ones relating to matters of democracy and legitimacy.
And primarily amongst these is the fact that, contrary to what some say, the Lisbon Treaty does not help fix the problems of the European Union, in some cases it only makes them worse.
Of course there are improvements in the text in comparison to earlier treaties, but they are small and very, very inadequate. However, by transferring more power to the EU the Treaty actually risks worsening the situation. Since giving more power to an unstable construction lacking popular backing and in the eyes of many citizens also legitimacy – only pushes the citizens and the Union further apart. Re-running referenda and/or denying people the right to decide on the tremendous changes that Lisbon brings, only serves to make them feel less a part of it. And it paints the rather unpleasant picture of a Europe not for the people, but instead for a secluded and somewhat obscure mixture of far-away politicians and bureaucrats. This may actually widen the already existing gap – something Europe definitely does not need.
When reflecting on the Treaty of Lisbon one also needs to remember that one of the important purposes of the EU-Constitution – as stated in the declaration from Laeken that became the foundation of the Convention that wrote the first draft of the Constitution – was precisely to bridge this gap between the citizens and the EU. Not to turn it into a chasm.
Now the Treaty of Lisbon of course is not the Constitution – but it is something very, very similar. Furthermore, the problems addressed in the Laeken-declaration, still remain unsolved. There are absolutely no signs that the gap between the citizens of the EU-countries and the political "elite" of the EU has grown smaller. It is more likely to have widened.
This is were the Constitution failed – not least as demonstrated in all the countries that voted on it, or where citizens demanded the right to vote – and where the Treaty of Lisbon also fails.
To be more concrete, we can take a look at the much debated issue of the Commission and the removal of each member states right to a Commissioner. For many this is clear point of critique.
The Commission is without doubt the single most powerful entity in the EU system; not only because it administers over much of the Union, but also because only the Commission has the power to propose new legislation. Removing the right to a commissioner is therefore removing a countries right to be present where a significant part of the EU's power is located. That this is worrying to many should come to no surprise, as it has been heavily debated – and criticised.
Another point of worry is that with Lisbon the Union will make more and more decisions through the means of majority voting, instead of unanimity. While this might indeed make it all more "effective" it also raises questions for many countries. The possibility of being voted down on core issues is a constantly lurking, and as EU legislation already conflicts with many national legal systems, it does not always seem as desirable as it is presented as being.
All of these problems are of course only made worse by the principle of counting not only the votes in the Council, but also taking into account the number of people that inhabit the countries voting for or against something. Combined with the change of votes, this has shifted the balance of power within the EU even more in favour of the larger member states.
It is in these ways that Lisbon invokes a set of very real worries: Is too much power permanently transferred from the countries and the national democracies to the EU? And how much influence will small or medium-sized EU-countries really have since they can both be voted down and their votes are becoming relatively less significant due to the size of their populations, and finally will not even been guaranteed representation in the Commission – the most powerful of the institutions?
These are valid questions to ask. Unfortunately there seems to have been very little will to seriously debate them – yet alone trying to overcome them.
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