Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Europe and local 

It is clear that Chris Huhne is tuned in to current debates on Europe, in Europe, and has a strategy for campaigning realistically in Britain.

The problem is often that national politicians blame the EU when laws are controversial or unpopular. They act as if they had nothing to do with drafting or approving the new rules, while claiming credit for popular acts and playing down EU involvement. This is disastrous for the democratic legitimacy of Europe and constipates more local decision making at all levels.

For others debates on this see (for example) the comments on the German situation by Bernd Hüttemann, Secretary-General of the ‘European Movement Germany’.

Broadly Hüttemann says European decisions have not been “presented as relevant for domestic policies…. Politicians, parties and ‘incompetent elites’ in general have failed to convey the importance of the EU.” The German solution seems to be to set up what Hüttemann calls an ‘alliance of bureaucracies’ in Germany “in order to improve the dialogue with civil society” and questions whether this will really lead to less bureaucracy and more public engagement.

Chris Huhne I think shares the view that National and local governments in Europe (at least in west European countries) tend to blame the EU for anything that goes amiss regardless of who is responsible, but is seeking a politics of engagement to highlight real accountability and local responsibilities. So his Europe-wide and local action themes in ‘leading the party’ are both crucial.

Meanwhile Ming is meeting the Euro-MPs in Brussels on Thursday 2nd February. Excellent move. I hope the emphasis of his visit is on the overall Party and national strategy, coming on to the ground partially explored by Chris, and perhaps extending it. And I also hope and trust that the visit is not just a finger-counting exercise on MEP support for this or that candidate. Relevant though endorsement tallies are, I am more interested in engagement in the issues.

I have looked for contributions from Simon on these various European themes and very much hope someone can point me to them.

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