The power of Brussels must be curbed. Our MPs amateurs compared with those we have elected to the parliament of Europe
There are just a few days to go until the European elections — but who cares? Most of the polling cards coming through people's letter boxes will end up in the bin. More people will have voted in last night’s Britain’s Got Talent final than for any one of the political parties putting up candidates in Britain on Thursday.
Anyway, why should people vote? All we seem to have as candidates are the usual nonentities, many of whom are hoping to get rich by claiming a seat on the Brussels gravy train.
In Britain we have been scandalised by the avarice, dishonesty and greed of our MPs. But they are mere amateurs compared with those we have elected to the European parliament.
Every year MEPs get more than £400,000 in salary, pension benefits and expenses without having to do anything so boring as produce a single receipt. Moreover, MEPs have continually blocked attempts to publish how much they are claiming in expenses.
If they were really governing us, MEPs’ massive salaries and expenses might be justifiable. However, the parliament is mostly a hot-air factory. It cannot propose any new legislation and is permitted to make only small changes to proposals put forward by the European commission.
The only people who can initiate new laws are the commission’s 27 unelected commissioners. Voters have no say in who becomes a commissioner, but the commissioners have massive power over us and make 80% of all the laws that Europe’s 500m citizens have to live by.
If the commissioners were chosen because of their track records as talented administrators, the fact that they are unelected might not be a serious concern. Unfortunately, people often get sent to Brussels as a reward for years of sycophantic service to their political masters or else because they have become an irritant or embarrassment in their home countries.
What do we get from these unelected officials? Looking at the European Union’s main policies there seems to be widespread administrative incompetence and mismanagement.
The common agricultural policy (CAP) soaks up about £40 billion of the EU’s £120 billion budget. Its aim is “to ensure that farmers make a decent living”, yet more than £30 billion goes straight into the bank accounts of Europe’s biggest food companies, aristocracy and richest landowners, while many ordinary farmers struggle to survive.
The EU’s website claims the common fisheries policy is a great success, allowing “harvesting the right amount of fish, of the right size, in the right way”. But Joe Borg, the fisheries commissioner, recently wrote a memo in which he admitted that “80% of our fish stocks are fished above maximum yield”.
The EU’s decision to force member countries to use biofuels in transport fuel has been accused of pushing up the price of food and causing shortages in the Third World. One United Nations official described it as a “crime against humanity”. Similarly, EU policies on military co-operation, CO2 reduction and even space exploration have mostly been fiascos.
The continual failure of its key policies has not dented the EU’s determination to increase its control over us. Its powers are set to be increased. Once the Lisbon constitutional treaty is ratified, Brussels will start legislating in areas such as our health service, education system, tourism, sport, social security benefits and even in individual families’ “work-life balance”. Moreover, the treaty contains a so-called “self-amending clause” which means it can be changed to give the EU more power without ever having to hold a referendum again.
So it’s not surprising that many people will feel there is no point in voting. Our European masters don’t really care what we think. We all know how they ignore the results of any votes which don’t suit them, such as the French, Dutch and Irish “no” votes on the constitution and Lisbon treaty.
The people in power are not listening because they no longer care what the people want. We have to make them listen.
The EU needs to be reformed. We need high-quality commissioners and they should be elected; the European parliament needs to represent voters’ — rather than MEPs’ — financial interests; MEPs should publish all the expenses they claim; the EU’s budget, employee numbers and powers should be reduced; failing policies such as the CAP and fisheries must be overhauled; and democracy needs to be restored.
The EU needs to be brought to account before it is too late. This is why the elections on Thursday are so important. They are our last opportunity to bring the EU under control and prevent the continuing takeover by an arrogant, greedy, unaccountable, self-serving elite. The EU needs to change. We have to go out and vote on June 4.
David Craig is co-author of The Great European Rip-Off and is standing as a candidate for Libertas on June 4