Tuesday, July 08, 2008

European woes

Given the fact that the amendments to Telecoms regulation have passed, I have been thinking about Europe. I am not a European citizen, I cannot even vote, but this year it will be 10 years since I have been living this side of the Atlantic, and paying taxes that go to support European institutions, so I feel a bit justified in having a moan about democratic engagement (and lack of) in the European Union.

As a Latin American, I have always been a fan of the ideals of the European Union. I think that many Latin Americans share my own sense of awe at the achievements of the EU, and many people who share Bolivar's ideals of a united Latin America see Europe as a paragon of progress, and dare I say, we share some envy at the scope of the undertaking. However, the EU suffers from several structural problems that make it a largely undemocratic body, filled with technocrats, bureaucrats, and obscure institutions mired in tokenism and pointless politicking and nationalistic anachronisms. The way in which European institutions operate is still a mystery to me, even after making an effort to navigate my way around the Byzantine mesh of committees, commissions and funding bodies.

The current crisis of passing ISP liability and copyright reform almost by stealth is just an example in a long line of regulatory and harmonising attempts that lack transparency. European citizens are often baffled at the Directives coming out of Brussels and Strasbourg, which goes a long way to explain why Ireland has voted negatively against the Lisbon treaty, thus throwing the Union into disarray. The EU cannot expect to continue with this monstrous top-down condescending approach.

Still, there are many good things about the EU. It has risen as an alternative against mindless consumerism, taking the lead in some important and worthwhile issues such as open source software, public sector information, and data protection. But there really needs to be some sort of reform to the institutions. European citizens can only stare in awe at the vibrant political process taking place in the United States. Think of it what you may, but the electoral process in the States has proved that politics can be both exciting and meaningful.

Now I will climb down from my soap box before it breaks, I'm not used to this.

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