From 1652 to 1791, the Polish parliament, the Sejm, practised what is known as liberum veto. Each deputy had the right to stop a decision single-handedly, and decisions could only be taken unanimously. This is usually considered one of the reasons why Poland was eventually defeated and parted. In Swedish, this has led to the generic saying “Polish Parliament” (polsk riksdag) as a by-word for any type of anarchy or chaos.
Funny, then, that it is the Polish leadership that is now trying to resuscitate a simliar principle on European Union level. But at this weekend’s informal EU Summitin Lisbon, which is supposed to unify the Union’s leaders around the EU’s new
constitution sorry, Reform Treaty, the Polish twin leaders are bringing a proposal that small minorities should be able to block decisions.
That is probably an attempt that will be applauded on some British editorial pages. However, the backlash on the longer term is of course that once the impotence of such a system is becoming evident, there is a great possibility that there will be calls for even more power to majority votes than today.
However, the question still remains whether or not the
constitution sorry, Reform Treaty will eventually be adopted at all, since it requires the signature of the heads of government – and Belgium still doesn’t have one.
It’s not due to be signed this time, but rather at the December official summit. We shall see whether or not there is a Belgian govermnent in place by then.