Candid writing

Candid writing, like Candid talk will be a irregular column of articles published eleswhere. The first is an article on the website of Politea, a Dutch political website focusing on matters European Union. This quarter they are discussing the growing phenomenom of Euroscepticism in Europe and I was asked to write about the Independence/Democracy Group in the European Parliament. This is a political alliance that includes UKIP, that is joined by a common belief that the sheer scale of European Union ambitions are anti democratic in conception.
"So what are you for? - Independence/Democracy Group in the European Parliament
As the media officer for the Independence/Democracy Group in the European Parliament I was delighted to be invited to provide a discourse on precisely that question. OK, so you are in the European Parliament the most avowedly federalist of the European institutions and you, as a group set your face against further integration. Aren't you barking up the wrong tree?

The point is that the Ind/Dem Group is a coalition of varying degrees of Euroscepticism united around a belief that only the nation state holds sufficient emotional loyalty for its citizens that the workings of a participatory democracy are effective.

Therefore you will find in the Group sub delegations such as the UK Independence Party that verges on the libertarian, to the Danish June Movement which has its roots in the hard left. Between them range the French MPF, traditionalist catholic, the Swedish Junelist, a centrist social democratic party, Polish Catholics, Dutch Calvinists, Greek orthodox nationalists, an Irish independent (Kathy Sinnett) who majors as a disability rights campaigner, and a free trader from the Czech Republic. Associated with the group, but without electoral representation as of yet (the elections are in November) are the Romanian National Initiative Party an anti-corruption movement and others, Atlanticist free traders in Portugal and Germany, neutrality campaigners in Austria and so on.

Thus must now be very obvious the Group is very much a mixed bag. But they are utterly united on three core issues. Firstly they are opposed to any further integration. Next they vigorously oppose the constitutionalisation of the European Union, and finally they are committed to transparency and rooting out corruption. With these three issues they are as one.

Back in 2004 they were the only Group in the European Parliament to have successfully campaigned for ‘No’ votes on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands. Today they are the only group that has consistently demanded that those voices, the clear voices from the people of those countries that they did not want the planned Constitution, are respected by the Euro elite.

The Ind/Dem Group has been at the forefront of the campaign to force the Commission to reveal the names of those who draft and those who advise on the drafting of legislation. It was the Ind/Dem co-President Jens-Peter Bonde who finally forced the Commission to disgorge the names of thousands of secretive ‘expert committees’ who are so powerful, yet unknown. Now we know what the committees are we are demanding to know who sits on them.

The Ind/Dem Group is at the forefront of the campaign to ‘Make every vote count’. Currently in the Parliament over 80% of votes take place by show of hands. Not only is this prone to error, (in one recent case after Ind/Dem MEP Graham Booth queried a result an electronic check was carried out. What had been called ‘Rejected’ had in fact been passed by over 500 votes to 48), but it is also utterly undemocratic. The only power a citizen has over their politicians is the power to sack. If you do not know how they have voted, then there is no accountability.

Overall the Ind/Dem Group, though small, punches significantly above its weight on matters that are its common interest. Questioning the European status quo was impossible only a few years ago, but is, partly thanks to the activities of Ind/Dem members growing across the continent. Even the European Commission’s Eurobarometer polling confirms this trend. It will not stop until it has forced the elite to listen.

Gawain Towler

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