Democracy in Europe

Democracy in Europe: Legitimising Politics in a Non-State Polity

Heidrun Abromeit
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Democracy in Europe
    Book Description:

    Since the beginning of the European Community students of international politics and of international, resp. Constitutional law, have been wondering what kind of animal it is, and will be, once integration has been completed. Whereas the EC Treaty of 1957 stressed the economic aspects and envisioned a steady and dynamic progress towards a Single Market, it was conspicuously silent about the political implications of integration and the new democratic order. What is needed, so the author argues in this powerful and original contribution to the debate on democratisation of the European Union, is a flexible system that supplements the European decision-making process with various direct democratic instruments such as the use of referenda. These would serve to increase the accountability of the politicians without demanding or requiring a definitive resolution of the exact constitutional status of the Union.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-800-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    H. Abromeit

    This book serves a double purpose: It submits a practical proposal for the democratisation of the European Union; and by doing so the book is meant to contribute to the current academic debate on how to make democracy fit to survive in an age of globalisation. It is not difficult to detect ‘democratic deficits’ in the modern world in general and in the European Union in particular; but it is apparently very difficult to find remedies for them. For some time now a frustrated public has been looking on in a kind of stupor at how political integration in Europe...

    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-10)

    Ever since the European Community came into being, students of political science and of international relations as well as those of international and of constitutional law (less though, surprisingly, the ‘informed public’) have been wondering what kind of animal it is – and what it is going to become, once the integration process has come to an end. For the EC Treaty of 1957 envisages a steady and dynamic progress towards the completion of a European unified or ‘Single Market’. As the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made clear at an early stage thistelosand such progress are to...

    (pp. 11-24)

    The EU considers itself by no means complete – neither institutionally nor politically (i.e., concerning the policy areas it covers) nor as regards membership. The new EU treaty’stelosis the ‘ever closer union of the peoples of Europe’ (Art. 4 Maastricht Treaty), aiming, rather explicitly, at complete coverage of major policies, at laws equally binding all over the community, at efficient ‘governance’. One might suppose it aims at the real ‘super-state’. More implicit is the otherteloshinted at with the vague notion of ‘thepeoples of Europe’: that of uniting all European countries. Both goals are contradictory, however:...

    (pp. 25-52)

    Seen from the angles of logic and structure, the European polity has developed in an entirely haphazard and piecemeal fashion. No plans whatsoever had been drawn up before its birth as regards the shape of the future political roof of the common market, not to mention ‘constitutional’ concepts. Instead, at crucial points in the EC’s history the original layer of intergovernmental cooperation was complemented with one or the other community institution to form an additional layer of organisation. These new layers were not necessarily synchronised with the previous one(s). Apparently nobody paid much attention as to whether and how the...

    (pp. 53-94)

    The reform proposals discussed so far have been drawn either from the widespread model of (majoritarian) parliamentary democracy or from models deemed particularly successful (such as German federalism). In part they have tried to add, in a more or less piecemeal fashion, new elements to those ‘common’ models (adding up, mainly, to multi-cameralism), without spending much thought on the question of whether or not such additions might alter the logic of the model altogether. Their failure to produce an adequate solution to the EU’s legitimatory and compatibility problems may suggest proceeding in a more systematic way. Consequently, my search for...

    (pp. 95-136)

    Before submitting my own proposals for the democratisation of the European Union, it seems advisable to recapture briefly what EU policy making looks like at the moment. (1) European decisions are taken by a complex and varying set of actors, comprising institutions with legislative and executive powers (the Commission, the Council, partly the EP as well as the ECJ); institutions of symbolic value and/or with ‘advisory’ powers (EP, CoR, ESC); and policy networks combining the Commission (always) and various collective actors such as governments, regional authorities, and lobbyists of the most different kinds. (2) Procedures and rules of decision-making in...

    (pp. 137-158)

    The proposed system of direct-democratic veto rights can be expected to meet most of the requirements listed above. Contrary to parliamentary institutions (to be strengthened or altered), further transnational committees, or additional chambers of whatever kind, this device has the advantages (1) ofnotbeingstatist, in neither presupposing a state-like development nor itself being a first step in this direction; and (2) of allowing for a high degree offlexibilityinstead, as regards the further completion of the union (in whatever respects), its ‘variable geometries’, and the multi-dimensionality of European policy making. Whereas parliamentary institutions invariably tend to strengthen...

    (pp. 159-169)

    Direct-democratic vetoes may well be the only means of providing for a modicum of democratic accountability in the case of politics as complex, as multi-dimensional, as much ‘variable in geometry’ and as much interspersed with decision-making by independent, quasi-non-political agencies, as European politics are. Parliamentarianism, at any rate, whether bi- or multicameral, does not in the least allow for a similar degree of flexibility, neither at the national nor at the supranational level. A further parliamentarisation of European politics is, moreover, apt to promote further centralisation and must therefore be expected to aggravate the EU’s incompatibility problems as well as...

    (pp. 170-176)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 177-182)