Democracy, Legitimacy and Majority Rule in the EU
POLITICAL THEORY AND THE EUROPEAN UNION: LEGITIMACY, CONSTITUTIONAL CHOICE AND CITIZENSHIP, pp. 34-48, M. Nentwich and Albert Weale, eds., Routledge, 1998
30 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2010
Date Written: 1998
When it is said that the European Union has suffered from a democratic deficit, the term 'democracy' is used to lament several separate lacunas. The aim of the present paper is to explore the relations between two of the senses in which 'democracy' is said to have been missing in the European Union.
Democracy as Legitimacy: Institutions, as all other rules that regulate behaviour, should be legitimate in several senses. We are only morally obligated to obey normatively legitimate institutions. That is: they must be justifiable to the 'demos,' to all affected parties. Normative legitimacy requires a presentation and justification of such principles of legitimacy for the European Union, as well as transparency of its institutions. Only then can the public assess whether principles of legitimacy are satisfied. At present, we have neither such a theory of justice, nor the requisite transparency. These flaws are in part due to the lack of a constitutional dimension to the institutions of the European Union. There is no explicit presentation and systematic defence of the de facto constitutive rules, rules of mechanisms, and purposes of the European Union (Castiglione 1995, 62-63). Insofar as these institutions are deficient in this respect, they lack the requisite moral authority and might not deserve the support of the populations. As a first step towards increased legitimacy, many (including the European Council and the IGC 1996 Reflection Group) recommended that there should be more transparency regarding the work of European Union bodies. The Amsterdam Treaty takes steps in this direction by requiring timely information to national parliaments, and allowing them six weeks for debates before legislative proposals are placed on the Council agenda. More drastic suggestions, not adopted, included a European Constitution explicitly established and recognised as such, and procedures for holding Council members accountable for their votes.
Keywords: European Union (EU), Legitimacy, Democratic Deficit, Democracy, Legitimacy
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