At a time when the EU leaders allocate the responsibility for the crisis to the member states at another -unknown to the general public- conference in Oslo, a group of distinguished academics a different view
Last March, the spotlight fell onto one of the many scheduled conferences of the European Council. The heads of government of the member states convened to define the "strategic guidance for the national fiscal policies of the member states, and this year's structural reforms." They concluded that ineffective bureaucracy and corruption of the member states are as much to blame for the European crisis as the American subprime mortgage crisis that began in 2008.
At the same time, there was held a much more modest - in scope and publicity -conference in Oslo, where a group of distinguished academics (Giandomenico Majone, Agustin José Menéndez, Christopher Lord, Fritz Scharpf and John Erik Fossum, et al.) discussed the same topic: the causes of the European sovereign-debt crisis, the possible way out of it, and the effects of the so far implemented measures.
The members of this colloquium were not elected politicians, but specialist academics: sociologists, philosophers, political analysts, legal scholars—no economists since the financial aspects of the crisis have been covered extensively. Besides fiscal figures, the European crisis affects first and foremost real people:the EU citizens experience every day the effect of these economic indices. How we got to this crisis and how the elected and non-elected EU leaders choose to deal with the problem has an immediate and potentially lasting impact on the democratic institutions of Europe.
The Oslo conference participants concluded that the crisis is not only one; there are several crises stemming from the systemic weaknesses of the EU construct and the Western socio-economic order
So the Oslo conference participants concluded that the crisis is not only one; there are several crises stemming from the systemic weaknesses of the EU construct and the Western socio-economic order, not just from the collapsing of the U.S. financial institutions in 2008. The latter merely served as the catalyst that allowed the above-mentioned weaknesses to manifest themselves as crises—economic, fiscal, macroeconomic, structural, and political crises.
Therefore, the EU has a major responsibility for these crises. Changes in the structure of European institutions and choices concerning the EU polity have nurtured these structural weaknesses of the Union. A significant role in the destabilization of the Union was played by (i) the equation of economic liberty with privatism and (ii), the fact that the economic and monetary union is asymmetric.
Moreover, the measures so far implemented to address the crisis at the supranational level have been intermittent, often contradictory, and downright ineffective, since the leaders of the European and the national governmental bodies keep changing their diagnosis about the nature of the crisis. What is of the most concern is that the handling of the EU crisis with measures that are supposed to be extraordinary and temporary has triggered a process of transformation of the European constitutional law. The EU in the form it has today increasingly moves away from the original European constitutional and political project which was based on Social and Democratic Law that governs national constitutions in the postwar period.
Is there any hope for democracy in the European Union? What how can the academic debate contribute substantially to this question? The message from Oslo is that the future may seem bleak, but nonetheless a solution is possible: going back to an interpretation of constitutional law which is based on democratic principles. We can and must challenge the policies and decisions that have been taken by the national and European leaderships during the last five years. This should be done not on the grounds of some political ideology, but on the grounds of preserving the constitutional tradition of the European Union and on the grounds of preserving our common democratic values. European scholars have chosen to keep silent until now. From now on, they should remind us more often that Democracy means choices; choices both at the national and the European level.