Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Previous |Next |Up |Title


It has been suggested that democratisation is in opposition to the defence of the Commission's interests. I do not agree.

My main message is that it is too crude to talk of one or other institution winning out. Rather the nature of the balance is redefined with everyone able to find new opportunities to make their voice heard. It is a dynamic, not a static phenomenon, which is not zero-sum.

However, perhaps there is a further point, namely, that the idea of a balance implies a 'mechanism' whereas what in fact it is is an idea around which the institutions gather and argue. It provides a forum for all to debate what should be the rules governing the operation of the whole system. Rules change, but if the change is an agreed one, all can accept that there is a continuing balance as laid down in the Turin mandate. Only if there is a threat that the rules will be changed against the express wishes of one party, for example the Commission and its right of initiative, can one talk of imbalance. S/he who speaks of imbalance means a rule-change contrary to his or her interest.

What is interesting is that over time all parties have come to accept that rule changes are compatible with their interests, even when those changes were initially hotly contested. Even the UK will now talk of codecision, thereby legitimising a practice which was so controversial in 1991/2.

The idea of balance does not therefore explain anything, but rather marks out the field of combat, with the parties constantly accepting to move from one stadium to the next!

The old image of the interinstitutional balance as a bicycle comes to mind, which needs to move in order to avoid falling.

The very idea of a development of the institutional balance by the move to a jointly agreed new level - or battleground - is expressed in the Declaration by Belgium, France and Italy on the Protocol on the institutions with the prospect of enlargement of the European Union which is part of the Final Act of Amsterdam. It states that "... the Treaty of Amsterdam does not meet the need, reaffirmed at the Madrid European Council, for substantial progress towards reinforcing the institutions ...". Reinforcing the institutions, not one at the expense of another. If this is correct, if all the institutions can be reinforced together, then the only loser in the game could be the Member States, if one insists that there has to be a loser. But does there need to be a loser? Is it not true that Member States get back some of the capacity for action if they pool their forces, a capacity that they have progressively lost ? That they regain sovereignty as a union if they pool their national sovereignties at least for those issues that can be dealt with together in more efficient - sometimes in the only efficient - way?

I am not opening a discussion about subsidiarity. But I think we are very close to the debate about the vision for the European Union. And this shows us that the speculations by the homo ludens are merely the surface of the very controversial debate concerning the nature and the objectives of the Union.

Previous |Next |Up |Title



Questions or comments about this site?

Top of the page