This is the first part of an occasional informational series gleaned from Professor Anthony Coughlan’s free book Tackling the EU Empire that is designed to give all Brexit referendum voters — the Remains, the Leaves and the Undecideds —  a bare bones understanding of what the European Union is, how it functions, the impetus and power base driving it forward, and the devastatingly high stakes at risk in this Referendum.

Here are a few highlights from Dr. Coughlan’s excerpted text, which appears further below, and a little background that I have added.

The European Commission

  • The European Commission, now referred to in the treaties as simply “The Commission”, IS the European Union, itself renamed the “Union”in the treaties.
  • The existence and authority of all EU institutions — including the Commission itself — and of all EU programmes begin and end with the non-elected Commission.
  • The Commission is not popularly elected and there is no mechanism that allows EU citizens to install or remove commissioners.
  • The non-elected Commission has a monopoly on making EU law. (The European Parliament, the only popularly elected EU institution, has no power to create law.)
  • Commissioners are forbidden from representing any single EU member nation, including their own. For example, while Commissioner Lord Hill is from the UK, he is not allowed to represent the UK.
  • Commissioners are appointed at the “suggestion of their home nations, not as a matter of right.
  • The EU’s plan is to remove entirely the national credentials of commissioners by having them reduced in number, so that not every EU member nation gets to suggest a Commissioner. Commissioners would then be chosen via election among pan-EU political “parties” created via the aligning of current EU Parliament groups.
  • Individual commissioners are answerable to nobody but other commissioners, and they are immune from search, investigation and prosecution for any act they can show to be somehow connected to their duties of office.
  • The European Parliament has the power to remove the entire Commission as a group, but can not remove individual commissioners. It used this power in 1995, forcing the entire Commission, led by Luxembourgian Commission President Jacques Santer, to resign due to allegations of rampant corruption within the Commission.
  • The Commission is planning to create its own EU military force, beyond the control of any EU member state except Germany, and to give itself the power to forcibly deploy that force in EU member nations without the nation’s consent, as well as in non-EU nations.


Excerpts from Tackling the EU Empire

[NOTE: I have broken out portions of the excerpted text, below, that I think are particularly important for voters to pay attention to, and I have added images. These break-outs and images do not appear in the original text. ]

“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, 2007


The exclusive power of proposing new supranational laws rests with the EU’s non-elected Executive, the Commission in Brussels. The Commission is more a Government than a Commission. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty each Member State had the right to “propose” its own Commissioner. Under Lisbon the list of Commissioners is decided by qualified majority of the European Council on the basis of the ”suggestions” of national governments.

Commissioners are appointed for five years. On appointment they swear an oath not to seek or take instructions from any Member Government. They are not delegates or representatives. Their allegiance is to the EU, not to their own countries … [They are strongly discouraged from using phrases that identify their own nationality when talking about their home nation, replacing phrases such as “My country” with phrases such as “The place I am most familiar with.”]

Jean-Claude-Juncker-President-of-the-European-Commission-2[Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured) put various Commission Vice-Presidents in charge of broad policy areas, supervising groupings of their fellow-Commissioners. This pointed towards the time when the number of Commissioners would be fewer than the number of Member States, as provided for in Art.244 TFEU. When and if that happens Commissioners are likely to be chosen on the basis of the major party blocs in the European Parliament. That would fulfill the desire of Euro-federalists to turn the Commission into a European Executive or Government based on a supranational Parliament, just as national governments are based on national parliaments …

[A] condition for supranational legislation in the EU is that draft laws cannot be proposed by elected representatives. French President Charles De Gaulle described the Commission as

“a conclave of technocrats without a country, responsible to nobody”.

At Member State level the production of draft laws by ministers is subject to all sorts of politico-bureaucratic checks and balances to make sure that foolish proposals are quashed early on. There is nothing comparable at Brussels level …

Democratic Oversight of Commission Decision-Making

corruption[The Commission]  draws up and administers its own budget, with minimal democratic control. It is supported by some 3,000 “secret” working groups, whose members are not publicly known. It is at this level that most Commission decisions are actually made and corporate lobbyists wield their influence. There are estimated to be some 15,000 such lobbyists in Brussels. They interact continually with the Commissioners, their Cabinets, their Directors-General and their civil servants.

Only some 2% of all Commission decisions actually come up at meetings of the full Commission. The vast majority are decided behind the scenes or lower down, where corporate lobbyists mainly operate.

The Commission’s Influence in Member States

committee of the regions

Meeting of the EU Committee of the Regions

Two important advisory bodies which spread the Commission’s influence are the Economic and Social Committee (“ESC”) and the Committee of the Regions. (“CoR”). These must be consulted on various issues laid down in the Treaties and in all cases where the EU institutions think it appropriate. The ESC consists of representatives of business, trade unions, farmers, consumers and professions, the CoR of representatives of sub-national authorities, regions, provinces, municipalities and cities.

Each committee has 353 members, nominated by the Member States. They play an important role in encouraging key domestic lobby groups to look to Brussels rather than to their own Member States if they wish to influence policy. They help to instill a supranational mind-set and erode national loyalties.

Advised by these Committees, the Commission disburses an annual budget of hundreds of millions of euros to endow a host of national lobby-groups and interest groups and encourage them to look to Brussels for funding, by-passing their national governments.

In this way journalists, women’s groups, youth groups, trade unions, pro-EU think-tanks, anti-poverty lobbyists, the disabled, university researchers, environmentalists, regionalists, minority-language advocates, the Christian churches and other religions are offered access to Commission funds of one kind or another.

protestlobby-bigTheir representatives are dined and wined on expenses-paid trips to Brussels. This effectively amounts to the Commission paying lobbyists to lobby itself to do what it wants to do in the first place, which is invariably to produce policies that seek to move things from the national to the supranational level…

The Commission’s influence is also spread through the work of some 40 international agencies set up under European law and sited in the different Member States to harmonise and coordinate standards, run various EU-wide programmes, bring together different interest groups and provide services and information to the public.

Examples are:

  • The European Environment Agency
  • The European Medicines Agency
  • The European Food Safety Authority
  • The European Banking Authority
  • The European Securities and Markets Authority
  • The European Chemicals Agency
  • The European Police College
  • The European Fundamental Rights Agency
  • The European Institute of Gender Equality
  • The European Institute of Innovation and Technology
  • The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
  • The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
  • The Trans-European Transport Executive Agency
  • The European Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency

There is no democratic supervision of these bodies at national level, and very little at EU level.


bologna_process_siteThe Commission is ideologically active in the Bologna Process, which aims to harmonise university and higher education qualifications across Europe. States inside and outside the EU now form part of the European Higher Education Area. This is not based on treaties but on cross-national agreements among third-level administrators and ministerial bureaucracies, encouraged by the Commission. The general thrust of the Bologna process is to:

  • Commodify higher education services
  • Cut down their cost
  • Replace humanistic values with managerial ones on American lines
  • Standardize courses cross-nationally, so that they contribute more to economic competitiveness, and
  • Erode democratic political control over higher education at national level.

The next part of The European Union: warts and all will present the bare bones facts about another EU institution, that, I hope, will help Brexit Referendum voters make a more  informed choice come polling day.

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