Arrogance is never Nice

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.24, 14.6.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 14/06/2001
Content Type

Date: 14/06/01

THE reaction to last week's rejection of the Nice Treaty in the Irish referendum was swift and predictable. Messrs Prodi, Persson and Verheugen were adamant that it would be business as usual as far as the enlargement process was concerned.

They could hardly have said otherwise. However, the way they said it left a sour taste in the mouth.

Some of their pronouncements had that all-too-familiar air of we-know-best arrogance about them.

Our Europa columnist refers to something "profoundly undemocratic" in their reaction to the sovereign wishes of an electorate.

Nicholas Whyte of the Centre for European Studies (CEPS) warns that the Irish referendum showed that an increasing number of citizens believe their views are being ignored by the 'political elite'.

This is a serious problem and one that both the member state governments and EU institutions show little sign of addressing - even with the benefit of their sophisticated PR machines.

It doesn't help, of course, that the 'product' they have to sell - the Nice Treaty - is so difficult to explain, even to the most intelligent person.

The voting procedures agreed may not entirely defy logic, but they almost defy description.

If the leaders of the EU are serious about getting in touch with the ordinary citizen and closing the democratic deficit, they need to get down to basics - and fast.

For one thing, that means producing treaties, directives and regulations that most people (not just the lawyers) can understand.

But most of all it means treating the European public with respect - and being seen to do so. It matters not a jot if arrogance is unintentional.

What counts is the perception. Right now, that perception leaves a lot to be desired.

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