It is time to recognise that the Union has moved from a diplomatic to a democratic process, with policies that reach deep into national societies and daily life . This statement by the European Commission subsumes ten years of political and academic on-going debate on the democratic deficit of the EU. The main trigger of this issue was the launch of political integration by Treaty of Maastricht. As a result, the democratisation of the Union has been at the centre of all Treaty changes in the nineteen nineties, which accounted for the urgent need felt by both political leaders and EU bureaucrats for enhancing the legitimacy of the EU. The failure of the Constitution's ratification process shows how crucial it remains to identify the challenges facing the EU in its attempts to establish democratic institutional structures, if the former are to be addressed. This paper will argue that these challenges are related to the undertaken shift from an elitist structure based on Nation-States to a multi-level polity including all citizens. Since these two ideas are ideal-types situated at both ends of a spectrum, the position the EU holds or should hold varies along normative lines. Institutional structures will be understood here in the (broad) constructivist sense, ie as all institutionalised processes that characterise the EU as a polity, including next to institutions themselves constitutionalised values, mecanisms for participation, decision-making processes, etc. Democracy will be defined as a mode of governance characterised by a set of procedures but also by substantive values , both aiming at guaranteeing the election by citizens of representatives on a pluralist basis, the respect of the rule of law, as well as the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals and minorities. Dealing with challenges requires th consider three relevant topics: the current situation, the objectives pursued by the EU and the both conceptual and practical obstacles on the way. Thus, I will first examine the obstacles towards a multi-level system of governance specific to the EU. Then, I will go on the impediments to the shift from an elitist and functionally fragmented decision-making structure to a more inclusive political community.
[...] From an elitist and functionnally fragmentated polity to an inclusive political community The current picture: democratic legitimacy prevented by the “cognitive deficit” and the unbalanced representation of societal interests The starting point of the democratic deficit of the EU is doubtlessly the fact that its institutional structures remain unintelligible to grass- roots social groups. That is the main factor for the EU to lack a “sense of civic belonging and access for the critical individual to channels of influence”. A minimum degree of identification with institutions and policy makers is the prerequisite for participation. [...]
[...] Catherine Hoskyns, op. cit., p. 190-191. Philippe. C. Schmitter, How to democratize the European Union and why bother?, Rowman &Litlefield, Oxford p Jürgen, Habermas, Die postnationale Konstellation, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt p Jürgen, Habermas, op. cit. p. 154-155. Amaryllis Verhoeven, The European Union in Search of a Democratic and Constitution Therory, Kluwer Law International p Amaryllis Verhoeven, op. cit. p. Adrienne Héritier, op. cit. p [...]
[...] As the EU faces criticism on its weak democratic legitimacy, it became clear over time that the elements of a European political community asserted in the Treaty of Maastricht (political integration, European citizenship, etc) are no longer compatible with the representation of too much fragmented pluralistic interests. The last institutional evolutions show a political will to tackle the unbalanced integration of the various social groups within the European polity. This phenomenon is being exacerbated by the fact that the ability of the European Parliament to represent European citizens as a whole is regularly put into question. [...]
[...] Habermas, Jürgen, Die postnationale Konstellation, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt p Verhoeven, Amaryllis, The European Union in Search of a Democratic and Constitution Therory, Kluwer Law International Héritier, Adrienne, “Elements of democratic legitimation in Europe: an alternative perspective”, in: Journal of European public policy, Vol p. 269-282. Höreth, Marcus, way out for the beast”, in: Journal of European Public Policy, Vol.6, No June 1999, p. 249-268. Hoskyns, Catherine, “Democratizing the EU: evidence and argument”, in: C. Hoskyns and M. Newmann (eds) Democratizing the European Union, issues for the twenty-first century, Manchester University Press , Manchester pp. [...]
[...] C., How to democratize the European Union and why bother?, Rowman &Litlefield, Oxford Institutional Document European Commission, White Paper on European Governance, COM 2001(428)final, Brussels Commission of the European Communities, White Paper on European governance, COM(2001) 428 final, Brussels p Such a dual definition has been adopted by many scholars, among who: Catherine Hoskyns, “Democratizing the EU: evidence and argument”, in: C. Hoskyns and M. Newmann (eds) Democratizing the European Union, issues for the twenty-first century, Manchester University Press , Manchester pp. [...]
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