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Barroso: "More integration demands more democracy, European democracy"

Barroso: "More integration demands more democracy, European democracy"


In his State of the Union speech delivered in Strasbourg on 12 September 2012, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso presented his vision for the future of the EU. According to Barroso a federation of nation states is to evolve, consisting of a deep economic and monetary union and a political union, with a coherent foreign and defence policy.

The State of the Union speech follows the example of President Obama’s annual state of the Union address to the US House of Congress. The speech on 12 September was Barroso’s third address to the European Parliament.

These three points are noteworthy from a perspective of more (direct) democracy in Europe and Democracy International’s call for a democratic EU convention:

1.)    EU convention and EU Treaty change - Barroso says that “a deep and genuine economic and monetary union can be started under the current EU Treaties, but can only be completed with changes to the treaties…. We must not begin with treaty change. We must identify the policies we need and the instruments to implement them…. And then there must be a broad debate all over Europe. A debate that must take place before a convention and an IGC is called. A debate of a truly European dimension.”

Comment: Here the question is: who is the “We” that identifies the policies “that we need” and the instruments to implement them? Also the named order is questionable. Should not there be a debate first in form of a convention, and should not citizens have a direct say on the policies that they need? A convention does not make sense when the policies and the instruments are defined already.

2.)    European Parliament – Barroso makes a strong point for strengthening a pan-European debate by suggesting that the European political parties should present the next candidate to run for the office of Commission President. This is an idea in favour of representative democracy and an innovation to the current modus which foresees that the Commission President is proposed and negotiated by national governments.

Barroso: “An important means to deepen the pan-European political debate would be the presentation by European political parties of their candidate for the post of Commission President at the European Parliament elections already in 2014…. This would be a decisive step to make the possibility of a European choice offered by these elections even clearer. I call on the political parties to commit to this step and thus to further Europeanise these European elections.”

3.)    European public sphere -
Barroso puts stronger emphasis on a European public sphere by saying. “I would like to see the development of a European public space, where European issues are discussed and debated from a European standpoint. We cannot continue trying to solve European problems just with national solutions. This debate has to take place in our societies and among our citizens. But, today, I would like to make an appeal also to European thinkers. To men and women of culture, to join this debate on the future of Europe”. 

That's good to read: The idea of a European public sphere by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has reached the mainstream of European politics.

After all, let’s hope that European Commission President Barroso will stick to his words and commit to deeds. José Manuel Barroso is his second and last term in office as European Commission President. This gives him the opportunity to act in the interest of Europe’s citizens and to realise a real democracy and not in the interest of people that bring him into office. Let's see what he will do until the end of his mandate in the second half of 2014.

Read the full speech at

Text by Cora Pfafferott




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