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Kirkhope: Focus on accountability

Speech to the European Convention

A President of the United States had a sign made for his desk in the Oval Office, which read "The buck stops here." The meaning of this sign was that there can only be accountability if there is responsibility, and responsibility must be clearly defined.

Where responsibility lies with a myriad of committees and a leviathan of bureaucrats, as it does so often in the European Union and our national governments, people do not know who to turn to, who is accountable or actually responsible. But if there is a single figurehead charged with that role and appointed by an accountable body, then people know where the buck of accountability lies.

Later on in this session we will be hearing from my fellow European Parliament member Mendez de Vigo on subsidiarity. I believe that subsidiarity is central to our debate. The vast majority of people agree that if there are mutual benefits from us co-operating together, we should do so. On other issues, we can go our own way. But if a group of people, a number of governments or certain countries feel that competencies have been misaligned, who on earth can they turn to to challenge this? At present, there is no one identified person: there should be in order to increase accountability.

In a paper I submitted to Working Group V on complementary competencies, I proposed the creation of a European Arbitrator, elected by the European Parliament and the European Scrutiny Committees of the National Parliaments on a five yearly basis, to arbitrate in cases where a significant number feel that competencies have been misaligned.

Simplifying the European Union by clearly defining responsibility would make it much more accountable and therefore more legitimate. Making it more accountable would reduce the apathy which plagues us, and in turn this would increase democracy in the EU. This should be the aim of the Convention, and simplification like this is a vital means of achieving it.

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