State of Union speech: time for trans-national democracy, at last?

In his “State of the Union” speech of 13 September 2017, President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his “sympathy” for the idea of trans-national lists in the elections to the European Parliament. This is a courageous move, knowing the reluctance – to say the least – of many nationally-elected politicians towards a proposal that would make them obsolete overnight.

I consider Jean-Claude Juncker to be fundamentally right. The only alternative to populism is trans-national democracy, not the global ploutocracy that we currently are heading towards.

I would define trans-national democracy as follows.

A trans-national democracy unites citizens, and takes action, beyond national, linguistic and cultural boundaries. Its institutions are democratic, and built at a supra-national scale. Officials are elected at trans-national scale. They have the mandate to act in the interest of the whole community of citizens being administered, independently from their nationality, language or culture. Democratic debates oppose different political views, not cultural or national differences. They result in political agreements and decisions at a scale large enough for public policies to be effective. The decisions taken are legitimate, and enforced by the power of law. Trans-national democracy thus overcomes the weaknesses, inefficiencies and illegitimacy of inter-governmental negotiations that plague most attempts of political action at scales larger than the nation-state.

The institutions of the European Union, and specifically the European Commission and the European Parliament, despite all their weaknesses, are to date the most advanced and developed prototypes of a trans-national democracy, at the scale of a single continent. I will come back to this, and justify this assertion further, in a later post.

In my views, a trans-national democracy is the only way for collective decisions to be taken at the scale made necessary by the evolutions of scientific knowledge regarding our planet, and of technical networks connecting humans. It is the only way for institutions to ensure that justice be given to the legitimate claims of all. It is the only way to reach the legitimate political agreements necessary to overcome the global challenges of the 21st century. It is the only way forward.

I rejoice that Jean-Claude Juncker, in a speech that may become historic, has started to set the rail tracks for a trans-national democracy. I hope that he will be able to have his views move forward – despite the vast majority of the political class, and of the press, being structurally against him.