The democratic deficit

Public support for Turkey’s EU membership bid is waning, dropping by 3 percent since last spring, the latest Eurobarometer poll showed. The pan-European survey took place after the unanimous decision by the bloc’s 25 leaders to launch membership talks with Ankara, a fact which underscores the inconsistency between political decisions and public sentiment in the Union. The EU is clearly suffering from a democratic deficit as only Spain, Poland, Sweden, Portugal and Slovenia were said to favor the prospect of Turkey’s EU entry. On the whole, 55 percent of Europeans oppose Ankara’s ambitions. It’s not the first time politicians have gone against the popular will. For better or worse, political leaders claim to know more than the public and, as a result, to make the right decisions at any given moment. The problem with the EU elites is that their estimations – and the expectations these cultivate – tend to be defeated. EU decisions rarely yield fruit. Scores of experts are working on ways to revive the European economy. The single European currency, the euro – once heralded as a cure for a wide range of problems – has been in circulation since 2002 but consumers’ purchasing power is going down while unemployment on the continent is going up. The EU leadership has lost its flexibility. Economic decisions are driven by rigid ideology reminiscent of the old communist regimes which once claimed to have discovered panaceas before practically collapsing overnight. Public confidence in the EU is crumbling, echoing the concerns of the mega-speculator George Soros, who some years ago predicted the EU’s economic policies would undermine the continent’s democratic systems.