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Europe: Weak Powers

Europe has been built on power sharing.

Dialogue has been obligatory, negotiation organised, compromise forced - this has been the constrained path of European decision making. It has added a supranational dimension to discussions between States, a painful reminder of the obligations previously subscribed to

in the treaties. This was probably necessary after centuries of turbulence and conflict.

But power sharing has led to weak power.

Member States have hesitated in delegating - they have not built true democratic control over their joint institutions and have demonstrated  their reticence. Now under the fire of further claims by citizens, who no longer feel that election is enough for government action to be legitimate and who are demanding real time account, the democratic powers of Europe have grown weaker. Parliamentarianism has become diluted, forcing resulting governments into sometime improbable coalitions, in the UK, central Europe and even in Germany for example. Regimes with a weaker parliamentary base like France have been weakened long term on all sides.

Of course problems in having to adapt unexpectedly to new world situations have a great deal to answer for. But Europe has not required "shutdown" - the political defiance that leads to the closure of part of the State's services - to illustrate the weakness of those in government. In our quest for democratic rights we have possibly confused the necessary control of the executive with the weakening of our governments. At the same time undemocratic powers in Russia, China and elsewhere, themselves facing demands on the part of their citizens, have become tenser and have tightened their totalitarian grip over society, lending weight to the idea that they were better prepared for the new world.

But Democracy does not mean less power - it is fully exercised Power, assumed as it is tested, controlled down to the last detail and - sometimes sanctioned unfairly.

One of the conditions of Europe's progress has been to draw up better controls over power but which remains strong and able to take decisions both on a national and European level.

We might quite rightly say that this mainly depends on the men and women who hold the leading positions.

However in 2014 all of the European institutions will be renewed. Governments will have an opportunity to choose leading personalities for the highest positions in Europe - in the Commission, Parliament, the European Council and External affairs - who are capable of leadership, in other words of taking risks in the general interest and even to their own personal detriment. Will they do this in Brussels whilst most often and for the same reasons they find themselves in uncomfortable situations on their home ground?

This is the price of vital recovery in Europe.