Democratic Legitimacy and the Eurozone Crisis – A Stark Warning

The following is a letter published in the Irish Times today. The direct link can be found here.

Sir, – The European Union is facing a crisis of democratic legitimacy. The process through which economic decisions are being taken by the ECB, IMF and the EU Commission are not contested in the European or national parliaments. This should worry every democrat across Europe. The policies being encouraged, as made plain by Jürgen Stark in his interview with Arthur Beesley and Derek Scally (Home News, September 12th), are to shift the entire burden of fiscal adjustment on to wage, welfare and labour market policies. These are presented as technical market decisions to solve problems of “competitiveness”. This is far from the case.

They have significant distributional implications. Lest we forget, the sovereign debt crisis has its origins in the reckless behaviour of private banks in international finance markets. For 15 years, Ireland was the poster boy for the IMF and the EU Commission on how to manage a liberal economy. The structural adjustments they propose to solve the crisis are not only economically problematic but they have no democratic legitimacy.

If there is no political process to challenge this or propose policy alternatives at either European or national level, then riots in the street may be the only course of action for democratic voices to be heard. We should never forget that Jürgen Stark is an unelected technocrat with an opinion, not a political representative with a popular democratic mandate. – Yours, etc,


Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies,

University of Amsterdam,

The Netherlands.

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