By Nikolas Spanoudakis
The globalisation has definitely changed our world in many aspects. In fact, the rise of the internet along with the increasing transport connectivity have made the creation of international communities or organisations possible which have never been imagined before the last century. Nowadays you can connect to people from all over the world via social media, and maybe one day even meet some of them in person. This is absolutely fantastic! However, this fast-changing world often creates a feeling of powerlessness in people who realise that their power in relation to multinational giants such as Google or Apple is insignificant. The same happens in the case of the European Union (EU) although the context here is different. In this article, I will try to analyse briefly a couple of examples concerning the concept of power in the EU context and then propose some solutions about how we can overcome the often-met feeling of powerlessness. Let us have a look at the Brexit case and lobbying power within the EU.
“Take back control” was definitely a catchy slogan spread by the Brexiters. If you look at the demographics of the referendum, it seems that this slogan echoed particularly at the hearts of elderly voters: it represented the claim to gain back power that has been transferred to Brussels and demands a return to a situation where the United Kingdom (UK) would look like the once almighty glorious British Empire. Ironically that may be a false promise. If the UK wants to retain its access to the European single market, then it will have to comply with the EU standards and laws just as Norway and Switzerland do. Moreover, no matter how flourishing the British economy is, it will always be smaller than the EU27 economy, and thus the British government will always have reduced bargaining power when dealing with the EU. Similarly, it is unlikely that the “sovereign” UK will have higher chances to negotiate better trade deals with huge countries like China. Sometimes size matters. Consequently, it is probable that in their attempt to regain power for their country, the British people will actually render it a weaker player on the global scene. However, this does not mean that being a member of the EU family is like living in paradise. The power struggle between different lobbies can absolutely have negative consequences and this leads us to take a look at the other side of the coin.
The EU governance in Brussels is often depicted as a detached world composed of lobbyists and bureaucrats. This narrative describes an “army” of lobbyists marching in the corridors of the European Parliament or the European Commission in order to promote the interests of their employers. This is not necessarily bad as the lobbyists can provide expertise that the politicians and the administrative staff lack, but it also has a problematic side. If Google or BussinessEurope can employ hundreds or thousands of people to obtain policies in their interest, then we may wonder who really influences the future of the EU? This question clearly raises an issue of democratic deficit. Furthermore, it creates a feeling of alienation driven by a sense of powerlessness; if Google will always manipulate the EU according to its interests, regardless of active citizen’s intervening, then why should these citizens bother about the EU? If the EU succumbs at the end to big corporations then why should we support it? While I do not share these thoughts and feelings I see a clear and legitimate necessity to address them. I believe that the EU is a powerful tool for its citizens but at the same time it has to ensure that everybody feels included in this project. So how can the EU become a more inclusive project and what can we do to reach this goal?
If you expected an easy answer to this “million euro” question, I have to disappoint you. Unfortunately, I do not have any magic solution(s). But what I do have is my personal experience and if you can get something useful out of it, I would be more than happy. Deeply irritated by the influence of British nationalists in the course of the Brexit referendum I began looking for a meaningful and constructive way to counteract. I came to the conclusion that if the EU is meant to have a significant role on the global field then it should stop acting as a total of 27 fragments. Power comes in unity. At the same time, I realised that I alone had little power to change this. After long reflection, I decided to join an association called “Europafederalisterna” which promotes the idea of a European federation. Many people together can achieve more! Further, I got engaged in the campaign #thistimeImvoting organised by the European Parliament in order to promote participation in the forthcoming European elections. I believe that my engagement in this democratic process is important. Democracy works well when people stand up for it. Lastly, I plan to organise a transmission in UF radio focusing on the EU and the benefits it gives us.
Maybe there are better solutions. Perhaps reading these lines, you have come up with better ideas! If so, I would like to hear from you. The EU is like a sleeping giant who needs our power to lead us into a better, more sustainable and peaceful future. Our future!
Nikolas Spanoudakis graduated from a master in chemistry for renewable energy and ever since sustainability is a key aspect of his life. But quite recently he realised that he has to fight for another important element in his life: the European Union. Thus, he decided to become a little champion of the EU. The result is doubtful but he is sure that the cause is good. Let’s see what happens!
Image: Marina Skovgaard Dokken