So the honest and decent Papandreou is forced out because he wanted to give the Greek people, who would bear the weight of the cutbacks, a chance to express whether they accepted them, however reluctantly, or whether they would take the alternative option of a default and leaving the euro. The corrupt and despicable Berlusconi is forced out because he cannot lever his own parties in Parliament to force through the cutbacks demanded by the bond markets, without the Italian people being granted any say-so in the matter at all. Democracy in the EU is now virtually a dead letter. It was always precarious: neither the Council of Ministers nor the Commission are directly elected. Now what has been highlighted is that when it comes to the really big decisions neither the European Parliament nor the peoples of Europe have any say in them at all. And that’s not the half of it.
The governments that will replace those that have fallen in Greece and Italy will be, not elected by their peoples, but effectively chosen to suit the markets, i.e. technocratic hard-line financiers with a mission to override any resistance to market-driven cuts. There will be not an ounce of democratic negotiation in it. In the EU, for all its democratic pretensions, the markets rule, OK or not OK. The innermost sanctum of the Eurozone, where all the big decisions are made, is now controlled by a tiny unelected coterie of Lagarde, Merkel, Sarkozy, Draghi and Barroso, with perhaps Juncker, Rompuy and Rehn in tow. These are not beholden to the voters, but to the markets.
If this is to change, it’s not just the monetary and fiscal structures of the Eurozone that need reform, but its policy -making and democratic structures as well. Governments run by technocrats are not non-political, they are run by highly marketised politicians. Nor will they necessarily succeed, whatever mandate they may ascribe to themselves. It simply means that the resistance, instead of being expressed by consultation and debate, will spill over the streets in protests, demonstrations and strikes. We saw that in the G20 protest, the August riots, and we are seeing it today in the big student demonstrations and likely on 30th of this month in the biggest trade union strike for a generation over public sector cutbacks. A new blueprint for democracy is desperately needed.