Nor is the EU a paragon of democracy. The decision to introduce the euro in 1999 was taken largely by technocrats; only two countries, Denmark and Sweden, held referendums on the matter (both said no). Efforts to win popular approval for the Lisbon Treaty, which consolidated power in Brussels, were abandoned when people started voting the wrong way. During the darkest days of the euro crisis the euro-elite forced Italy and Greece to replace democratically elected leaders with technocrats. The European Parliament, an unsuccessful attempt to fix Europe’s democratic deficit, is both ignored and despised. The EU has become a breeding ground for populist parties, such as Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, which claim to defend ordinary people against an arrogant and incompetent elite. Greece’s Golden Dawn is testing how far democracies can tolerate Nazi-style parties. A project designed to tame the beast of European populism is instead poking it back into life.
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Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory and John Rylands Fellow, University of Manchester. His other books include "Ideology"; "The Function of Criticism"; "Heathcliff and the Great Hunger"; "Against the Grain"; "Walter Benjamin"; and "Criticism and Ideology," all from Verso.
What’s gone wrong with democracy : Democracy was the most successful political idea of the 20th century. Why has it run into trouble, and what can be done ...