Friday, 11 February 2011
The enlarged EU voting system.
Letter to The Economist December 2000
There is one and only one, dynamic system of distributing votes in an enlarged EU.
That system is based on the very same principle as has been active in the development of democracy as such, when the process is viewed from a generalized historic perspective.
Filtered for concrete historical elements, the development of democracy went from dictatorship/(monarchy) via oligarchy, to systems where selected groups of people were given the right to vote, and further on to situations where all male citizens received a vote, before finally women were also given the vote. In Norway, and presumably also in other countries, economically independent or wealthy women had the right to vote prior to other women.
The developmental level of the present “democratic” system of the EU is situated somewhere between oligarchy (the commission/board of ministers) and selected voting (the parliament).
Whereas the present real power in the EU primarily lies within the commission and the board of ministers (oligarchy), it would be preferable that the parliament, in a more or less distant future, would reflect all the real powers involved. However, as history has shown, such a transition has to be gradual and in accordance with the development of the member states.
As each and everyone of the EU member countries are on slightly different levels of development, a ‘one vote per citizen’ democracy, obviously does not reflect the actual political maturity and strength of the EU as such.
In the historical development of national democracies, the right to vote gradually spread downward in society in accordance with the economic positions of the various groups involved. That same economic principle can be used today for the distribution of votes within all three decision making structures of the EU; the commission, the board of ministers and the parliament. In order to reflect the real powers of the member countries, the distribution of votes has to be in proportion to the BNP of those member countries. In that way, the larger and highly developed countries would be entitled to more votes; whilst at the same time the smaller, highly developed countries would get better representation than they are, in fact, entitled to, according to the size of their population. Even the lesser-developed members as well as the new member countries, would have an incentive. With such a dynamic system, they would have the prospect of automatically being better represented in the future decision making structures of the EU, as their BNP reaches higher levels.
The direct connection between national BNP and the number of votes makes this system dynamic, since the number of votes can be adjusted before each and every election to the decision making EU structures.
Eventually, when all the member states, in a more or less distant future, have developed to the same level, the commission and the board of ministers can be abolished and a genuine representative democratic government can be implemented.
As the archaic voting system in the USA has shown, and the political heckling about the EU Nice conference demonstrates, an unbalanced power distribution can cause serious damage. Unfortunately, we all tend selfishly to hold on to established privileges. Therefore, although it would further a dynamic EU development, there is little hope of abolishing the present system in favour of the implementation of the above dynamic BNP system. Recognition of the optimal would hopefully further the process a little.