Lobby Groups Are Putting the Breaks on Democracy

Article published on Feb. 23, 2004
community published
Article published on Feb. 23, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

From military-industrial lobby groups to trans-national democracy: a possible ‘regime change’ for Brussels and the rest of the world.

Farming groups are not the biggest danger to the stability and future of an enlarged European Union. Yes, every Friesian, Lombard and Bavarian cow receives more money from Brussels than an honest citizen in Mali earns on average. But we cannot say that Europe’s problem is farmers and cows.

In China, the death penalty carries an Italian number-plate

We have witnessed the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, being welcomed as an emperor in Paris. But we have not seen the signatures on the contracts ensuring that the Airbus consortium will build 30 planes. We don’t even know what Jacques Chirac and Hu Jintao said to each other about the construction in China of four nuclear centres and the high-speed railway line between Pechino and Shanghai. We only know that human rights weren’t mentioned. It wasn’t deemed worthwhile by any of those present.

We also know that Fiat has factories in China where social rights are apparently optional. And we also know that Fiat cars were used in the mass death sentencing delivered by the Chinese Communist regime. But Fiat has not said this and nor has Hu Jintao – he denounces the ‘No one Touches Cain’ organisation.

We know too about Italy’s excellent relations with the Iranian regime. Khatami –also a reformist but who has not reformed a thing in five years. We also know that the NHA (National Hydrocarbon Agency) has interests in the exploitation of energy resources in Iran. We do not know, however, what has happened to the hundreds of Iranian students who vanished after the Pazdaran round ups. But those are just details right?

Human rights: when governments say that ‘rien de va plus’

Solana and Patten are complying with this. This is European foreign policy. Nothing is decided in Brussels; everything is in the hands of national governments which share out the world’s crumbs: I’ll have China, you have Iran, Iraq can go to Total-Fina etc. As long as the Americans don’t get in the way. And in this game of global poker, the military-industrial lobby groups always win while respect for human rights and democracy dwindle away - in Europe and the rest of the world.

In his speech on 17th January 1961, the President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower or Ike, former General, former Supreme Commander of the allied forces in Europe during World War Two, former ‘evil man’, former enemy of all pacifists, gave his own country this warning: ‘America must see to it that the military-industrial ensemble does not acquire unjust influence’. The only trouble is that – thanks to Eisenhower – America was and remains an unmerciful democracy and Europe was and remains a fluid and consensual non-democracy.

Eating well at the Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg

Lobby groups are developing a decisive role in democracies. They allow for the mass circulation of information, they put the pressure on, they force problems to be faced, they push the reality into the king’s face, so to speak.

But when lobby groups operate in non-democratic political and institutional systems they are simply transformed into parasites and fodder for power. The decisions taken will never be realised in any newspaper, there will be no election that could revoke the mandate of the politician who has unduly favoured the interest of such and such a sector. Everything is still done behind closed doors in Brussels and other national capitals.

The lobby groups of the military-industrial ensemble, which were also the engine of Schuman, Monnet and co.’s sectorial and functionalist integration, are today the biggest obstacle to the creation of a European democracy. With the current system of dividing up influence between national governments who bargain in the empty corridors of the European institutions without any kind of democratic control, why on earth should economic interests fight for greater accountability of power? Why on earth should they favour the development of real European elections to elect a President, a Parliament and a political programme for the next five years? Why on earth should they allow a strong European decision-making centre to undertake this programme creating competition when they can calmly divide up the ‘cake’ between friends, travel between national capitals, and eat once a month at the extremely fashionable Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg?

We need an authentic regime change in Brussels. We need to bring an end once and for all to functionalist and sectorial integration of economies, lobby groups and anti-democracy. We need to give Europeans the possibility to choose a federal and democratic Europe with its own accountable scandals and its own accountable lobby groups, a Europe with clear political responsibility. A Europe decidedly more American with an elected President and a ‘constituent’ Parliament.

We need right now a trans-national policy which is an alternative to the obselete ‘foreign policy’ of dust-covered national diplomats. An accountable foreign policy which is legible. But above all we, Europeans, need to launch a great mass-media on the model of ‘Voice of America’ to spread the democratic message, to give the right of free speech back to all those who are oppressed across the world, and to destabilise the Chinese, Iranian, Vietnamese and Co, regimes, which destabilise everything while stabilising themselves, with the most powerful weapons of mass fascination. For Europe this would be the cherry on the cake (for once whole) of a new and effective foreign policy. For the rest of the world it would be the bread of knowledge, truth and freedom. And apologies if its not very much.