Letter: EC must be subject to the control of its people

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The Independent Online
Sir: Twenty-nine years ago, in an inaugural lecture, I suggested that the increasing concentration of power at the state level was movement in the wrong direction. What was needed was as much devolution of powers as possible to below state levels. If this were not done people would feel powerless to influence their conditions of life, they would become alienated and apathetic, social values would decline, and politics and politicians would be viewed with growing contempt. But equally, some functions required management at levels above the state - questions of external relations, military affairs, and economics among them.

In the lull and exhaustion of post-crisis Maastricht and the exchange rate mechanism, it seems to me that the time is ripe for consideration of these fundamental issues. What is required is a commission of representatives from the 12 member states of the EC whose task it should be to recommend, in the light of EC objectives, how the performance of functions should be distributed at EC level, at state level, and at sub-state level, and what kind of institutional arrangements should be made at the level of the Community. Evidently, arrangements within the member states would vary, but principles should be clearly formulated.

The membership of the commission should be of persons with a deep understanding of constitutional principles and of politics, and with some practical experience, but not politicians who are conditioned by their role to state-centred viewpoints. It should be as small as possible: 12 optimal, 24 maximum. It should of course seek advice from persons of relevant skills, and from different countries.

Without a fundamental inquiry of this kind politicians will be able to do no other than repeat the botched horse-trading that produced Maastricht, or the creation of structures without consistent and realistic purpose, such as the ERM.

Yours faithfully,




11 August