19 Feb 2012

Euroskeptics Now An Organised Force: Brussels Fiddles with Apathy. Backlash #2

Dr Simon Usherwood, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Department of Politics, University of Surrey U.K. heads up the Collaborative Research Network on Euroskepticism. The findings are interesting reading for both the embattled Euro Federalists and the rising Euroskeptics.

One of the things Simon Usherwood notices when talking to an EU “Fonctionnaire,” or to most people in the ‘Brussels bubble’ for that matter, is the language: Suddenly, we are in a world of jargon, acronyms and values. “European integration is good,” the officials say “a goal to which we can work.”

While the European Union has striven to democratise itself, it still finds it difficult to open up to other voices, especially when those voices do not agree with their policy or doctrine.

One of the consequences of this elitist control has been the emergence and rise of Euroskepticism.
Under siege, 49 organisation have TEAM across Europe to challenge
 EU legitimacy. It is now suggested Brussels dismantles the
 wall of silence towards the Euroskeptics.Picture: Leopold park, Brussels. 2012
Over past years these skeptics were either marginalised or ignored, often despised by a number of EU officials who palmed them off as misinformed or populist.
But not anymore. Embedded skepticism is now a persistent part of the European Union. Over a third of respondents in a recent Euro-barometer survey felt no benefit from membership of the EU over the past ten years and more importantly, levels of trust in all EU institutions have plummeted.
New anti EU pressure groups are getting organised across the continent supported by ever more substantial resources. Look at the mission statement of The European Alliance of EU-Critical Movements and their criticisms of the Union.

What unites Europe's citizens is a common belief in the principles of democracy - as requiring representative government, citizen participation, transparency, accountability and free and fair public debate. We regard the current development of the EU as a manifest threat to these principles.”
In National parliaments soft skepticism challenging individual policy, fiscal integration and enlargement can now be found in many mainstream parties throughout the Union.
The response to date from the Brussels Bubble has been largely, one of indifference, a passive reliance on the fog shrouded machinations of the huge EU complex to get their way. This apathy pushes the project's leaders further into a blanket of mist and beyond the view of most citizens. “Instead of the old parlour game of naming ten famous Belgians, try naming ten famous pro-Europeans” asks Usherwood.
Euroskeptic success in pointing out the shortcomings of the EU has eclipsed the overall Union package deal and the benefits of integration. At times, it is hard not to feel that the EU has brought much of this situation on itself.
In the face of this challenge, there is a need to act. For too long, the existing structures and systems have been attacked, leaving them like hollow shells of their former selves. Can anyone still argue that the solution is simply to give more powers to the European Parliament, or to launch another information campaign? Part of the answer, Usherwood argues, lies with the skeptics themselves. This is not because they have all the answers, but because they ask important questions.
Usherwood says there is a strong case to be made for listening to the Euroskeptics to address their fears and concerns and that engagement might result in a more stable and legitimate Union.

All political systems have to balance three fundamental features: legitimacy, effectiveness and efficiency. Skeptics strongly favour the first of these, while Federalists push for the last two. However, what makes for a stable system is a balance between all three and currently the Union does not look to be serving any of them particularly well. The view is that things will get worse before they get any better.
The central argument is simple. By engaging with Euroskeptics in all their diversity and contradiction, the Union will be better placed to improve its legitimacy in the short-term and its effectiveness in the longer-term.

Euroskeptics might not have the solutions, but their their growing presence demands Federalists attention and eventually, their involvement in resolving the present Impasse. 

 …...adapted, edited and abridged with permissions from the original article http://alturl.com/whujj What can the EU learn from the Euroskeptics? By Simon Usherwood