Herzog & Gerken on the EU

Yes, I know this is coming a month or so too late, but it’s still pretty interesting. Former German Federal President Roman Herzog and Lüder Gerken, Director of the Center for European Politics, critique (G) the EU for its intransparency, its inflexibility, and its lack of accountability.

They cite a study claiming that, from 1998 to 2004, 84% of the decision of the German Bundestag originate in Brussels, and that, contrary to common belief, they are some of the most important laws passed in Germany. Their critique s not directed so much at the structure of the EU (although the EU’s "democracy deficit" is addressed), but at the increasing centralization of power in Brussels.

They pretty much dismiss the EU Constitution, arguing that it will do almost nothing to solve the EU’s structural problems, and in fact will firmly entrench some of the worst ones. Herzog and Gerken propose four reforms:

  1. An exclusive catalog of competencies that limits Brussels’ power;
  2. Enacting the "discontinuity principle," which would mean that legislative initiatives that are not passed within a single session expire, instead of waiting around session after session until they are passed;
  3. Creating a formal procedure for re-assigning specific subject-matter competencies from Brussels to individual member-states;
  4. Creating a "supreme court" for competency questions. The court’s exclusive purpose would be to decide whether, e.g., pesticide regulation would be a matter for individual Member States or for the EU.

I might post a bit more about this later, but am a bit pressed for time . My question is this — has this proposal sparked much debate in the German-language media? How about the English-speaking media? I’d be grateful if anyone could point me to a link or two if they happen to know. [Hat-tip: SK]

5 thoughts on “Herzog & Gerken on the EU

  1. I find Herzog’s and Gerken’s reasoning a bit strange I must admit. Most of the “problems” (some of the bugs are actually features) can be translated one-to-one to the relationship between the German state and federal level. And I can’t remember hearing Herzog complain about that. From unnecessary centralization, to the (absence of a) role of state parliaments on the federal level, to the unbalanced powers of the two chambers of parliament and the government/commission, I could go on and on. And I can hardly believe that a former president and judge at the constitutional court Roman Herzog would actually overlook these obvious parallels. So the whole text is probably more rhetorics than conviction.

    One could say I’m comparing two things that shouldn’t be compared. If the authors had simply stated “nation state = good, EU = bad” I wouldn’t complain (only disagree). But that’s not what they do. So after reading *ten* pages about oh-so-familiar *domestic* problems presented as if they were breaking horror news from some far-away fairy land called EU I think I have the right to complain.


  2. can be translated one-to-one to the relationship between the German state and federal level. And I can’t remember hearing Herzog complain about that.

    That would make him the first German politician to not complain about the flaws of federalism, so it’s probably just an oversight on your part 😉


  3. @Sebastian

    When German politicans complain about the state of federalism in this country they complain in 99% of the cases about the blockades by the Bundesrat. However, they seldom complain as long they are in the opposition but hold a majority there.

    Apart from that they only complain about not enough *centralism*. The consensus seems to be that any elements of federalism beyond representing the states’ governments (not parliaments!) in the second chamber is unwanted. I cannot recall *any* politician demaning to leave *any* importent subject to the states’ jurisdiction. Well, forget that “important” part. Even the thought that Bavaria might have other rules about smoking in restaurants than Hamburg deems them as total anarchy. And where the states do have the power to make decisions these are still made for the whole country, just in shady circles like the Kultusministerkonferenz.

    Plus, I would have liked to see Herzog’s face when he was still a judge at the constitutional court, if Saxonian and Hessian judges had shown up telling him that they had to approve the court’s decison because as a federal organ it’s obviously “not neutral enough”.


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