Sunday, June 05, 2005

Local democracy,,2092-1641097,00.html

In the Sunday Times, 5 June 2005, Simon Jenkins wrote about Europe after the 'no' votes or Europe after 'The Peasant's Revolt'.

Jenkins sees an argument in favour of greater local democracy on the lines of the cantons of Switzerland or the mairies of France.

Jenkins writes: "As both Napoleon and Hitler discovered, when European imperialists march to the east they eventually lose in the west. The elastic is overstretched."

Jenkins relates that Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden have to some extent decentralised their governments. Local communities and provinces have some real power.
Cities such as Milan, Toulouse, Barcelona and Munich appear to have benefited. Swedes and Sicilians can run their own schools and healthcare.

According to Jenkins: "Last week the Dutch voted to stay Dutch."

Jenkins reports on a study of democracy in Norway: "Local democracy, once strong in Scandinavia, was waning.... Unless the Norwegian constitution was reformed, said the study, Norway would become a form of oligarchy. A stage army of self-selected party politicians in Oslo would share power with an elite of unelected technocrats, lawyers, bankers and journalists. They would adjust policy by regular focus groups and opinion polls. The urban poor would be a helot class, too small to matter politically. The only threat to this oligarchy would come from outbursts of protest, controlled by ever tighter security."

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