31 December 2012

Form of the executive power of the European federation

In this post, I will describe my idea about who should be a holder of the executive power of the European federation. Readers know already that my idea is a committee or a body that I call the Council of Chancellors. I wrote however nothing more about it, maybe most readers will expect that it is actually only my different name for a standard state government which commonly is formed in European states. But my view is different not only in the question of the name – it fundamentally differs from a typical European manner of establishing governments and is very close to some extra-European ways of establishing the executive power. The fundamental point of view for me is democracy and possibility of the people to influence public events and the European manner is not enough democratic in my opinion.

European federalists have a habit of taking the United States of America as a model and of taking over every single feature from them. But while they take over such details as that the European federation should be called “The United States of Europe” they disregard more fundamental things. There is one great difference between the way how the executive power is staffed in the federation of the USA and the way usual in Europe which is planned also for the future European federation by many – one person elected directly (or in fact directly) is a holder of the executive power in the USA, a body consisting of more persons (a prime minister and other ministers) that are not elected is a holder of the executive power in European states. Which system is more democratic? Various people can raise an objection that European governments are made up on the basis of (parliamentary) elections (which is absurd: parliamentary elections → a government). It is true but in spite of it the prime minister and other ministers are unelected persons; the people decides who will be a (prime) minister in no European state. The reality is that parliamentary elections are held, after the elections, envoys of political parties that obtained a certain greater number of parliamentary seats meet together and come to an agreement behind the scenes which person from the respective parties will be the first minister and which persons fill posts of other ministers. The people can only watch this negotiation but has zero possibility to influence it. The people can only partially determine by its election of parliament's deputies which parties will negotiate about composition of the government but it is the only possibility that it has. It cannot even exactly decide which concrete parties will form the government, the political parties themselves decide it after the parliamentary elections. The people can influence in absolutely no way what person will hold what ministerial seat although governments and their individual ministers play a significant power role in systems of present states. How such system can be considered as democratic? If a system of direct election of a holder of the executive power in the state is closer to the will of the people, a question can be asked why it is not used in Europe and why governments are made up by a negotiation of political parties behind the scenes (or quasi publicly) after parliamentary elections. There can be an answer that it is simply a European tradition but another tradition then can be asked – why there is a different tradition somewhere outside of Europe? A true explanation of a European manner of establishing the executive power has to be searched in historical development of Europe. So I will now proceed to a historical digression which is necessary in my opinion to show why I hold not for suitable to copy the form of the executive power common in present Europe for state arrangement of the European federation.

Before the half of the 18th century, absolutistic monarchies ruled almost in all Europe. A monarch was an exclusive holder of the state power in them, other classes of inhabitants were excluded from decision making, they could at most participate in execution of monarch's will. There were exceptions (Venice, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland, German City-States, Dubrovnik) that were mostly aristocratic oligarchies but they played not a decisive role in Europe's development and what is more, existence of almost all of them entirely or temporarily ended on the threshold of the modern times. Enlightenment philosophers, in particular the French ones, were coming up with theories about wholly different state arrangement – based on the will of all people – that that really existed in that time. These theories met with a great response in their century but could not be put into practice in Europe because the absolutistic monarchs were yet too strong. What was however impossible in Europe was possible in the north America. In the year 1776, its North American colonies separated from Great Britain and faced a task to choose a state form. There were no tradition of absolutistic rule in these colonies and ideas of European (French) philosophers were known there and they were really used in administration of the colonies. Therefore state theories of Enlightenment were naturally used also in creation of state form of the new federation. The power of the king of Britain over the North American colonies was overthrown in the year 1776 (or through the following war) but it was not strong even before, so there was no obstacle for using a state form of the Enlightenment. It is important to emphasize that Americans had not to make a compromise with an absolutistic power.

There was utterly different situation in Europe. Shortly after the North American colonies had achieved independence absolutism fell in France, the French however were not radical at first and made a compromise with the existing royal power because the executive power was left to the king. Shortly after the king was executed but after a short temporary period monarchy returned to France and it strove after restoration of absolutism. In 1815, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated, almost all Europe was absolutistic and absolutism seemed even reinforced. All the same, rise of a more democratic regime could not be halted but evolution went in most Europe unlike in France by a way of gradual concession of the absolutistic power. An elected body of representatives was conceded at first, usually however representing interests of the most rich or otherwise privileged ones initially and only with a consultative function; the absolutistic power of the monarch thus was restricted only very partially. The monarch, above all, chose in his arbitrariness his ministers (the word minister is of the Latin origin meaning originally “a servant”), as however grew the power of the elected body it happened in a certain moment that ministers of the monarch became responsible to the representative elected body instead of to be solely private servants of the monarch. The next step then was that the monarch chose a prime minister according to outcome of the election to the representative body and appointed other ministers on his recommendation or reserved their appointment utterly to him. Although this evolution passed not with the same speed in all European states it became a basis for the present form of the executive power everywhere in Europe – the president replaced the monarch in almost all states but nevertheless, he appoints a prime minister in compliance with a result of the parliamentary elections and other ministers on his recommendation who are together the collective government responsible to the parliament. The present manner of establishing the executive power is therefore caused by historical evolution, by the way how absolutism was retreating during the 19th century. There was no possibility to choose another way in the 19th century and the manner of establishing the executive power had therefore to look like it looked.

But the question is why still to continue today in action that was necessary in the past but is not necessary today. I do not see any reason. The present way of establishing governments corresponds to historical circumstances which went down already and apart from that the citizens can directly not influence what concrete persons become members of the government it has also one disadvantage more: The present governments are formally responsible to the parliaments and they can work only when they have confidence of that parliaments. Superiority of the parliament (as the only directly elected state body) results from it at first sight, reality is however exactly opposite. Because political parties that have majority of deputies in the parliament form the government the respective “governmental” deputies must act so that they put not stability of the government at risk. It follows, apart from other things, that to agree with draft bills submitted by the government is almost their duty. And if some serious contradictions among the parties being in the government happen, a common solution is dissolution of the parliament and calling premature parliamentary elections. But the parliament is dissolved because the problem happened on the side of the executive power which is simply absurd. The government is responsible to the parliament theoretically but in practice, the parliament is rather responsible to the government because its action must adapt to that the government falls not. This way the parliament and the government grow together in one and separation of the legislative and executive power is rather theoretical than real (all the more so that the author of most of draft bills is the executive power).

My opinion is for the given reasons that the only way of establishing the executive power of the European federation corresponding to the 21st century is a direct election by the citizens. This however provokes some questions. In the first place, it is a number of holders of the executive power of the federation. (A method of election is in the second place but I will reserve it for the following post). If we speak about a direct election, it is almost impossible to ponder over a classic government consisting of approximately 15 ministers. An election campaign would be rather confused (and so a possibility to choose the right persons to be complicated) but above all, the resulting government would consist of persons of heterogeneous opinions and would therefore suffer from inner ambivalence similarly as classic coalition governments. In my opinion, capability of action takes precedence over diversity of opinions (which on the contrary is very appropriate at the legislative body) at the supreme executive body. An election of one holder of the executive power stands as a best possibility, similarly as in the USA (if we ignore a superfluous connecting link in the form of the electoral college). But this is not the best possibility in my opinion. The European federation, whatever size it will have, will be probably a great state and therefore a number of activities that its executive power will have to deal with will be also great. I believe that to charge one person with such great burden and responsibility is not appropriate and that the executive power of the federation should be held by more persons. The question of the number so remains. The number should not be great for the reasons that I mentioned above, a possibility to form a list of candidates consisting of more persons with the same or similar opinions and to leave a possibility to judge suitability of every single candidate to the people at the same time is limiting. In my opinion, the best is to decide between the number of two or three. The number of two resembles two candidates in the presidential election in the United States of America, for the president and its vice-president, but only one of them really executes the executive power after the election and attention of voting citizens is focused just on him. Also ancient Rome can be remembered, high public offices were always held by two persons. But a motive of this measure was not distribution of burden of the office, the true reason was to prevent emergence a tyranny of an individual. In spite of my idea of establishing a collective executive power of the European federation too, either of two Roman colleagues was elected separately and so two people met in an office who had utterly different views at execution of their public service, sometimes with consequences in practice. As for three common holders of the executive power, I can refer to France in the period 1799-1802 when three consuls led the state. As in the case of the executive power in the United States, the fact is also here that these three consuls had not equal position (the first consul who was Napoleon Bonaparte played the leading role among them). I wanted only to show by these historical or present-time examples that the executive power in the state can be distributed among two or three persons, to take over any formerly or now existing system without a change is however not necessary. In every case, the choice between the number of two or three holders of the executive power of the European federation will be decided on the basis of the way of decision making of their collective body. If the same responsibility is put in hands of more people, they can reach a decision either unanimously or by voting. Either two or three persons will hold the executive power of the European federation, a requirement for unanimity would cause that every of the colleagues would have the right of veto on decisions of the body which could paralyse the executive power. In the number of two would however be no alternative than either unanimity or veto and unanimity cannot be achieved also among close persons always. Therefore the number of three holders of the executive power is better because consent of two from the number of three is necessary to come to a decision and it is a compromise between unanimity and a possibility of veto by one vote.

So my conclusion is that holders of the executive body of the European federation should be three, elected directly by the people of the federation (which is more democratic than the present way) and running for the office in groups of three, details about organization of the election will however follow later. I will explain also why I chose the designation "chancellor" for a holder of the executive power of the European federation.