The Launch: Jens-Peter Bonde and EU referenda

J Clive Matthews
20 September 2007
Amato, Bonde and Giscard d'Estaing

Even the most fervently pro-EU person on the continent would not try to argue that the European Union is fine as it is. Hence the failed Constitution, hence the new (or perhaps not so new) Reform Treaty. The arguments over Europe's future have instead come because no one seems to be able to agree what kind of reform should take place, with all member states wanting something different.

A member of the European Parliament since 1979, Danish politician Jens-Peter Bonde is certainly an EU-sceptic - but not quite in the classically British sense of seemingly instinctive flag-waving patriotism. He may well co-chair the European Parliament's Independence and Democracy Group with UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, yet his centre-left EU-scepticism is based on decades of in-depth analysis - and rather than a desire to pull out of the union, a genuine hope for radical reform backed up by a democratic mandate.

In other words, Bonde has long been considered a bit of a trouble-maker by that infamous "EU elite". You should have seen the look on Giscard d'Estaing's face when Bonde turned up...

Kicking off his speech with an attack on the new EU Reform Treaty ("The only difference [from the Constitution] is the presentation"), Bonde's firm belief that EU-wide referenda should be held to gain the people's consent for the future direction of the EU could - if you're only used to British EU-sceptic arguments - sound merely obstructionist.

Because as we all know, if a referendum on the new EU Reform Treaty were held tomorrow, the people of Britain would vote no. Not that they've read it, of course (having shifted from a 300 page constitution into an an emending treaty, it's impossible to read without continual cross-referencing to countless previous treaties).

But this is part of Bonde's point. If the people can't understand the workings of the EU, if they haven't got founging documents along the classic lines of the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, how can they be expected to feel a part of it? And if the unelected elites of the European Commission who are pushing ahead with the much-needed reforms fail to consult the people, how can they expect to have the people's support?

"This is my core criticism," says Bonde, "we have a decision-making process that is not democratic... You have to be non-elected to be able to influence the laws."

Rather than reform the specifics of the way the EU functions, in other words, should we instead be starting again from scratch - this time ensuring that the people are firmly at the heart of the process?

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