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Condescension - IUF comment 25/2006

Sascha Tamm, IUF

German EU Super-Commissioner Verheugen voiced his disgust at the conduct of several high-level EU officials. Verheugen told Spiegel Online that these EU officials would argue arrogantly and condescendingly that the bureaucratic apparatus of the Commission itself has taken on an uncontrollable life of its own. The Commission must not allow officials, who lack democratic legitimacy, to reduce its power.  


Now it is not only allowed but also encouraged to question the democratic legitimacy of the Commission. However, what is really incredible is the naivety exhibited by Commissioner Verheugen. What has he actually done for the most part of his public career? He has supported political decisions that were implemented by the great bureaucratic machine. The fact that the Commission uses its domination to create power and employment has been known for a long time. It has also been unavoidable to a certain extent. Giving more power to the Commissioners over the political machine might reduce the arrogance of the officials but would not change independent existence of bureaucracy. And it would not change the pivotal underlying issue that Verheugen is obviously unable to recognize the continuing pretentiousness of the EU-Institutions as a problem.  


The various opportunities to keep the expansion of national and bureaucratic power at the EU-level somewhat under control are weakly defined. First and foremost there is the limit of competences and policy areas in which the centralized powerhouse could get active. This works rarely at the EU-level -- the current draft EU Constitution hardly offers a remedy because it has too many loopholes and leaves too many questions unanswered. The next antidote would be to follow the American model of checks and balances. However, all EU institutions, the Courts and Parliament have the same built-in tendency towards centralization, which is the hubris of power. Sadly, for the time being, the over-bureaucratized, statist nation-states, which are fortunately often in disagreement, are the only guarantee that the officials in Brussels and the Commissioners will no longer be condescending.  





  • Sascha Tamm, IUF


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