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Democratic Deficit in the European Union Essay


Introduction

The participation of people in politics is associated with democracy. As follows from the translation of this term from the Greek language, democracy is the power of people. In one of the speeches for the European Parliament, Barroso, the 11th President of the European Commission, claimed that globalization requires more European unity that needs greater integration. In its turn, more integration requires more democracy.1 The problem of the deficit of democracy in the European Union (EU) is discussed widely for several years. Many arguments are given both to support the thesis of its existence such as a lack of legitimacy and transparency as well as its refutation including powers given to citizens, although the number of supporters of the deficit prevails.

Issue Identification

The concept of democracy deficit is used while stating that the European Union and its bodies are not democratic enough, and their complicated mode of functioning cannot sufficiently take into account the interests of citizens. In theory, the foundation of democracy is to be composed of the political equality of citizens and the control of the population in the process of making decisions.2 To promote democracy, the EU uses such tools that are similar to those applied to protect human rights: political conditioning, election observation and counseling, financial assistance, civilian and military missions, and diplomatic instruments.

The views on the extent to which the elements of the principle of democracy are embodied in the European Union are divided. Some believe that the EU manages institutions able to provide legitimacy, transparency, and control of the functioning of its authorities. Others emphasize a growing deficit of democracy speaking of a deficit of democratic institutions, and the lack of democracy in society. The first is connected with a growing bureaucracy and a distance between the institutions and the citizens, the second – with the observed signs of difficulty in the formation of the category of the EU civil society.3 At the same time, it remains that the processes taking place within the EU are not different from those related to globalization. First of all, there is an insignificant sphere of the public control over the work of the EU’s structures. For example, the only institution elected by the EU members is the European Parliament, which has public legitimacy and fulfills all the requirements for considering it a public body.

The European Union has become such an abstract concept for the average Europeans since some questions arise: who leads the organization, and who makes decisions in Europe? For the public perception, the system of the EU is broadly described as follows: on the one hand, the dominant role is played by a body that simultaneously has legislative and executive powers (the Council of the European Union); on the other hand, the European Commission is a body lacking a genuine democratic legitimacy. The questions are quite legal as the EU institutions, in which more than 75,000 people work, are completely inaccessible to the citizens because of their too complicated functioning. In fact, there is the European Parliament, which includes 754 deputies representing more than 500 million EU citizens; the EU Council, which plays the role of the Council of Ministers of the various member countries; the European Commission, an executive body comprising 28 commissioners responsible for the legislative proposals, and several other bodies and agencies.4 Such a structure creates difficulties in understanding what exactly is being discussed under such topics as “this is demanded by Europe” or “people should do this for the EU”.

All this contributes to the emergence of some mistrust associated with the complex decision-making processes in the EU. More and more decisions are made in the European Councils through the intergovernmental method, and not within the framework of a pan-European system.5 In addition, the EU is based on a multifaceted system of treaties that arose both within the organization and as a result of the intergovernmental agreements.6 Among the latter, one may note the Schengen Agreement or the Budget Pact. The mentioned bureaucratic difficulties can become an insuperable obstacle for any person trying to understand the mechanism of the functioning of the EU.

Does the EU Suffer From Such a Democratic Deficit?

In fact, EU’s capabilities are important not only in terms of authority. The concept of the European Parliament has a systemic error as its idea overtakes the ongoing social processes and does not correspond to reality. Despite many years of the EU existence, there is no mentioned European Union society united by a sense of the European identities. In this regard, it is impossible to find a consensus based on the collective consciousness of belonging to the community, which should be perceived as “we” and for the benefit of people should work regardless of national and state possession. In other words, there is no joint orientation. Consequently, it is difficult to recognize that there is European legitimacy.

A recent yet popular concept of deliberative democracy, which, in theory, should prevent the growing bureaucratization of the European Union, is suggested as a potential solution to the identified problem. The idea of ​​a deliberative democracy that refers to giving citizens the opportunity to participate in the development of decisions, but not only in their adoption such as a referendum should be provided. Follesdal and Hix emphasize the role of communication processes by pointing out that in modern society the law stabilizes expectations only when it has an internal connection with the integrating force of actions.7

The policy of the democracy unites democratic freedom in the formation of will and in the informal arrangement of opinions. The two forces such as weak private associations, expressing their will to address the authorities and interests, and the state authorities may be distinguished. The interests of the former do not oblige the latter, but both of them are to be taken them into account. The Article 10.3 of the Treaty on the European Union states that every citizen has the right to take part in the democratic life of the EU as far as possible, and the decision-making process should be transparent.8 The goal of the deliberative democracy is to engage citizens in the process of making decisions, thus increasing the confidence in allied solutions and collaboration in general.

The deliberative democracy implies a new type of legitimacy that is to be technocratic to ensure the connection between the effectiveness of the board of the EU politicians and the public legitimacy of decisions taken. There is the opinion that the Internet should be the main tool of this democracy during the development of modern technologies. Its universal access prevents the control over the disseminated information, identification of a sender, and aggregation of information. Thus, it has all the properties necessary for engaging the society in the process of developing solutions, leading to the formation of European civil society.

Reviewing the current situation with democracy deficit in the EU, it is possible to state that this organization suffers from it. Among the reasons causing such a deficit, there are several aspects. Namely, the ways to approve bills in the EU are too diverse and complex. At present, there are several procedures for drafting and approving them, in which the functions and powers of the European Commission, the Council, and the European Parliament are changing. This significantly complicates the position of citizens as it requires them to discuss the issue not only to know the essence of the problem but also to understand the methodological subtleties of the EU organization. In addition, the process of the European integration, despite its length, which takes decades and contradictory nature, represents a long-term trend based on progress towards united Europe.

Conclusion

To conclude, one may state that the long period of prosperity and the dividends of the integration gave a sense of well-being in the EU. It seems that in Europe, there are no problems with either democracy or legitimacy as the basis for the legitimacy of the EU actually became the economic effectiveness of its activities. However, the evidence shows that the legitimization of institutions based on efficiency is quite limited and not transparent. In many European countries, the integration processes change the institutional environment necessary for the vital activity of national parties, infringing the space of their internal freedom and deteriorating the functional complexity. The above issues contribute to the emergence of a deficit of democracy.

Bibliography

Barroso, José Manuel Durão. “President Barroso’s Speech on the European Semester.” Parliamentary Week of the European Semester, European Parliament, Brussels, 2014.

European Union. 2016. Web.

Follesdal, Andreas, and Simon Hix. “Why is There a Democratic Deficit in the EU? A Response to Majone and Moravcsik.” Journal of Common Market Studies 44, no. 33 (2006): 533-562.

Jensen, Thomas. “The Democratic Deficit of the European Union.” Living Reviews in Democracy. 2018. Web.

Moravcsik, Andrew. “Is There a ‘Democratic Deficit’ in World Politics? A Framework for Analysis.” Government and Opposition 39, no. 2 (2004): 336-363.

Sieberson, Stephen. “The Treaty of Lisbon and Its Impact on the European Union’s Democratic Deficit.” Hein Online 14, no. 1 (2007): 446-465.

Footnotes

  1. José Manuel Durão Barroso, ““President Barroso’s Speech on the European Semester” (Parliamentary Week of the European Semester, European Parliament, Brussels, 2014).
  2. Thomas Jensen, “The Democratic Deficit of the European Union,” Living Reviews in Democracy, Web.
  3. Andrew Moravcsik, “Is There a ‘Democratic Deficit’ in World Politics? A Framework for Analysis,” Government and Opposition 39, no. 2 (2004): 349.
  4. “EU Institutions and Other Bodies,” European Union. Web.
  5. Stephen Sieberson, “The treaty of Lisbon and Its Impact on the European Union’s Democratic Deficit,” Hein Online 14, no. 1 (2007): 447.
  6. Thomas Jensen, “The Democratic Deficit of the European Union,” Living Reviews in Democracy, Web.
  7. Andreas Follesdal and Simon Hix, “Why is There a Democratic Deficit in the EU? A Response to Majone and Moravcsik,” Journal of Common Market Studies 44, no. 33 (2006): 542.
  8. Ibid., 545.
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IvyPanda. "Democratic Deficit in the European Union." September 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democratic-deficit-in-the-european-union/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Democratic Deficit in the European Union." September 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democratic-deficit-in-the-european-union/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Democratic Deficit in the European Union'. 15 September.

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