A more democratic Union


In order to put the European Union back on track, there is no other choice for European nation-states, other than to acknowledge the right of peoples to self-determination and laying out a roadmap for a ‘Europe of regions’.

Today, September the 14th, marks the 70-year anniversary for the Faroese independence referendum. 70 years ago, a narrow majority of Faroese voters said yes to establishing a sovereign Faroese republic. The vote, however, was not approved by the Danish government and ultimately the Faroese Løgting (parliament) was dissolved.

This blatant disregard of Faroese democracy is actually a pretty common trait all across the European continent. First and foremost, the European nation-states will prevent any and all referendums threatening their territorial integrity. If that doesn’t work, they will use some excuse to declare the referendum results void, a common one being that the vote is ‘unconstitutional’.

This cannot go on. Not only is this a blatant example of EU double standards, but actually contributing to the surge of EU-sceptic parties across Europe, most of these being far-right extremists.

The Brexit-vote, which only two and half months ago shook the European Union to its foundations and is still sending economic and political shockwaves throughout the European continent is a warning for things to come if we do nothing. There are many reasons for Brexit, most of them of course being internal politics of the UK, but some reasons are more general and pertain to the general policy and direction of the EU.

One of these being the unwillingness of EU-leaders to respect the self-determination wishes of their electorate.

The politicking of the EU in regards to the Scottish independence referendum back in 2014 is a pretty good example of the EU indifference when it comes to the right to self-determination. In the debate leading up to the vote, EU-leaders where quite adamant on basically throwing Scotland out of the EU if the independence wing would go on to win the vote. But now, when it comes to sticking it to the English and making an example out of them, it would seem the tune has changed. According to Guy Verhofstadt, now chief Brexit-negotiator for the EU, Scotland should get to stay in the EU, if the rest of UK indeed elects to leave. This goes to show that to European leaders, democracy comes second to protecting their own interests.

It is time for this to change.

The European Free Alliance has long been campaigning for the EU to recognise new states of old nations. This is crucial. The EU has to recognise the right to self-determination and support those peoples, who might want to have a referendum about their future.

Also, the entire structure of the EU has to be re-examined. There is a widespread perception of democratic deficit in the European Union and this has to be taken seriously. Ensuring that the principle of subsidiarity is the main foundation of European governance is important and therefore a committee should be appointed to investigate and assess the democratic quality of the current structure of the EU.

There is still a future for the European Union. The nature of it now rests in the hands of European leaders and their ability to sound out the concerns of their electorate and their willingness to re-define the European project in a way provides every single EU-citizen with a sense of ownership of the EU.

Tags: Europe, Self-determination, regionalism, democracy, referendum

Tór Marni Weihe | EFAy Vice-President for Participation and Empowerment