European Union is post-democratic

by John Fonte

A quick point to Cristina. Even strong supporters of the European Union recognize that the institution has a “democracy deficit.” For decades most of the power and authority of the EU has been exercised within the European Commission (EC), the bureaucracy in Brussels. Legislation is initiated by the EC, not the Parliament or the Council of Ministers which can only refuse to accept legislation already developed by the EC (which they almost never do) or amend the legislation through a complicated process.One of Europe’s most prominent sociologists, Ralf Dahrendorf (former commissioner of the EC, current member of the House of Lords) stated that: “It is not just a joke to say that if the EU itself applied for accession to the EU, it could not be admitted because it is insufficiently democratic.” The nation-states of Europe are democratic, but the institution of the EU is, what I would call “post-democratic.” Hence, I don’t believe we have an example of a democracy beyond the nation-state, possibly we have those below the nation (city-states), but not above.

Cristina is right about federalism, many nation-states have federal systems and this is not a problem for liberal democracy, but the supra-national EU is a problem. Christina is also right to suggest that decision-making on illegal immigration is often de-centralized and contradictory. That does not mean, however, that the vast majority of the American people are not right in favoring border and interior (business) enforcement of our immigration laws.

One point on dual citizenship. The empirical work of Jeffrey Staton, Robert Jackson, and Damarys Canache has found that Latinos who are dual nationals or dual citizens are less likely to have “political-connnectedness” (self-identification as Americans, consideration of the US as real homeland, civic duty) and electoral participation than Latinos who are not dual nationals. This appears to me to strengthen Peter’s general point.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/05/14/european-union-is-post-democratic/

2 Responses

  1. On Europe – given the hundreds of years of European history and the relative youth of the current 25 nation vision of Europe (really in 50 years going from 6 to now) – I am not sure that it is appropriate to lay so much negativity on the European construct. It is like talking about the inelegance of a house that is half (quarter? eighth? who knows?) built. Of course it is inelegant – and thus the sense of or construct of citizenship may also be seen as inelegant in that setting. Yet, the profound changes I witnessed over the past 25 years in the manner in which Europeans move in that space, speak multiple language, and take ownership of that broader space is very significant as a foreigner watching.

    It is an on the ground citoyennete.

    I always felt that Eddy Izzard the comedian caught the essence of this in a routine about Europe in which he defined Europe as a person riding on a Vespa waving and saying “Ciao”!

    Best,

    Ben

  2. The EU has a long way already behind it, and perhaps still a long way to go.

    What its history shows however is that with more power, also the democratic elements grew more powerful. Today no one who claims to be informed about the EU can claim that the European Parliament is just a meaningless debate club.

    Its increasingly discovering its powers and with the reform treaty it will get a nice list of increased powers. The European Parliament already forced the European Commission into stepping back once. The last time a new Commission was to be formed, the Council suddenly and surprisingly faced itself with a Parliament that refused confirmation and demanded that a specific Commission candidate has to be withdrawn as he failed the Parlamentary interview that every potential Commissioner has to face. After this incident future candidates will also face this interview with the necessary seriousness as they won’t be interviewed by a teethless debate club just for fun.

    As you can easily see, the European Parliament has quite significant powers to control the European Commission.

    I haven’t even written so far about the substantial legislative powers of the Parliament even though it can’t initiate a law by itself, it can suggest that to the Commission and if the Commission initiates one the Parliament can as well as the Council turn the law on its head and or stab it as it wishes. The Commission can’t force any sort of legislation past the Legislative. Of course the Parliaments powers are limited to the codecission procedure, but with the reform treaty that will apply to every area except for foreign policy and defense (where the council will continue to decide in unanimity)

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