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Are leadership and democracy compatible at the trans-national level?

by Marie-Hélène Caillol
24/10/2002

We are struck by the number of actors involved in international relations and by the general spirit that drives them, strongly inspired by the “secret service” culture: entrepreneurs, oil tycoons, arms dealers, drug dealers, diplomats, politicians, journalists, diverse and varied interest groups… it is to whom will have the most secret information, the most sophisticated analysis, the most devious “strategy”, the most powerful network… to advance a multitude of divergent interests..; and this, reproduced and multiplied by tens of thousands of actors, so much so that in the end nobody understands anything (including the so-called actors). Paranoia, anarchy, total lack of transparency and readability,…; everything is in place for a rapid and radical deterioration of international relations, against a backdrop of growing mistrust among the population for anything beyond the national level. The facts are there to convince us of this.

This raises the question of leadership at the global level in a salient way.

Indeed, despite the (oh so excusable!) mistrust carried by the West to all forms of leadership (“führership”) since 1945, it is undeniable that there can be no democratic system without “leadership”, accountable, transparent, identifiable and accessible. While the weakening of leadership at the national level is currently leading to a political crisis, the combination of leadership and democracy has yet to be invented at the transnational level in general and at the global level in a particularly urgent way.

In the absence of an answer to this question (i.e., an applied solution), America is putting in place the old-fashioned methods of leadership free of the democratic imperative of forcibly imposing the views of one. Meanwhile, Europeans are slipping on the last steps to complete the solution invented by Jean Monnet 50 years ago, finally coming up against the crucial question of the political leadership of an integrated trans-national economic entity. [1]

Does this mean that leadership and democracy are incompatible at the trans-national level? If that is the case, that is cause for concern for the future of mankind in this globalized world! Otherwise, it is imperative to find the solutions that can be guaranteed:

. that they are located on the side of Europe where a trans-national experience has been underway for 50 years (which gives us a particularly heavy responsibility); . and that they are in fact partially known but rendered inapplicable precisely because of the political crisis experienced at national level by the various EU Member States.

This reflection, which should have occupied European leaders during the very serene 1990s, is now taking place in a context of multiple crises (the need for reform in view of enlargement, the rise of nationalist extremism, the deterioration of the transatlantic relationship, the clash of Islam/Christian civilisations, the economic crisis, etc.).

The EU’s delay in establishing a European democracy as the first pillar (in the chronological sense) of a global democracy is therefore likely to cost the planet dearly!

1] “European governance”, “institutional reform of the EU”… so many politically correct denominations for a debate that will not lead to anything until Europeans overcome the taboo that characterizes their relationship to power.

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