bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Friday, February 04, 2005

European Parliament debates arcane regulations, not policy?

Thanks to Martin, here's a tale from the New Statesman about lobbyists in Brussels. And guess who leads the article? Hungarian beekeepers:
A few dozen Hungarian bee-keepers with their bee-yellow baseball caps are leafleting outside the European Commission on a sub-zero Brussels Monday morning. On the small traffic island allotted to such demonstrators they are campaigning with many exclamation marks for Purer Honey! Cleaner Environment! No Foreign Imports! Ignored by most of the pedestrians crossing rue de la Loi between the Commission building and the Council of Ministers headquarters, the protesters buzz into startled action when I stop to ask about their aims.
The journalist (“buzz” -- what a wag, eh?) doesn't go into further detail about the Hungarian lobbyists' aims, but I suspect it's the same as before. An earlier report claimed that 70% of the Hungarian honey crop from last year remains unsold and they are selling for just over half the price of the previous year. They are concerned about the quality and quantity of imports.

In any event the Hungarian beekeepers have their work cut out:
There are probably already as many lobbyists as there are Brussels bureaucrats and they could soon form the city's biggest industry as well as its fastest-growing.
And rather disturbingly:
Most of the corporate lobbyists in Brussels can reasonably argue that, when they press their case for changes to draft regulations, they simply represent, as friendly experts, the continent-wide consensus that supports free trade, a business-friendly environment and light regulation. When a group is out of step with that consensus - such as those bee-keepers who want to keep out foreign honey - its campaign is dead in the water, no matter how many leaflets it hands out and whether or not it employs a lobbyist.

What is missing within Europe is not just democratic structures but any proper political debate. The European Parliament, far from maturing into a parliament that can discuss foreign policy, alternative economic strategies, relations with the US, or even the admission of new members, is stuck as a technocratic forum for harmonising arcane regulations.


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