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Friday, May 31, 2013

Answer to Hague's Nullification Proposal: The European Parliament Is Democratic

At the end of May 2013, William Hague of the British government delivered a speech advocating that state legislatures should be able to block E.U. laws proposed by the European Commission. At the time, a state legislature could use a “yellow card” to object to a proposal that could presumably be better legislated and enforced at the state level. Hague wanted a “red card” option that a state legislature could use to block legislation. There are several problems with Hague’s proposal.
               Should the state legislatures dominate the EU's legislature?  The British state government says yes. Would the Union wither and die?           Source: mapperywordpress.com
Presumably, such a card from just one of the 27 state legislatures could block a proposal. It would be difficult to imagine virtually any law surviving at the E.U. level. Why then have the E.U. at all then? Were such a card to block the proposed E.U. law only in the particular state objecting, the E.U. would be faced with the problem that President Jackson faced in the U.S. in 1930 when the South Carolina legislature passed the Nullification Act, which enabled the state’s legislature to block any U.S. law detrimental to the state’s interests. If every state can pick and choose among federal laws, what force would any federal law have?
Finally, Hague was assuming that the European Parliament is not democratic at all, whereas the state legislatures are fully so. However, the members of the European Parliament are directly elected by EU citizens. The representatives represent those constituents rather than states (or state governments). Perhaps this is why Hague proposed to have the state legislatures essentially replace the European Parliament. To be sure, the legislative districts at the state level are smaller and thus more democratic in this respect. This does not render federal legislative bodies like the European Parliament and the U.S. House of Representatives non-democratic. At most, the differential in terms of democracy between the two levels is an argument for greater subsidiarity.