European Democratic Deficit

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  • Topic: European Union, European Parliament, European Commission
  • Pages : 8 (2826 words )
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  • Published : February 6, 2007
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The democratic deficit is a theory developed by scholars in order to illustrate that the European Union and its institutional bodies suffer from a lack of democracy (Wincott, 1998, p. 414). However, there are many definitions of the democratic deficit (Chryssochoou, 2000; Justice, 1996; Warleigh, 2003; Weiler, Haltern & Mayer, 1995) depending on the views and approaches of each scholar. Joseph Weiler's ‘standard version' of the democratic deficit is one of the most common definitions and it is a set of widely-used arguments by academics, scholars and the media (Weiler et al., 1995, cited by Follesdal & Hix, 2005, p. 4). It consists of five claims that explain why the EU can be called undemocratic and they are the following: a) there is an executive dominance because of European integration, which decreased parliamentary control, b) the weakness of the European Parliament, c) the lack of "European elections", d) the EU is "too distant" from the citizens and finally, e) the "policy drift", policies that do not enjoy the support of the majority of the citizens (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, pp. 4-6, and Weiler et al., 1995, pp. 6-10).

Since the early 1990's, there has been an ongoing debate on the democratic deficit because there are many different ways in which the EU's political structure can be studied, as well as the fact that there are various theories of European integration and models of democracy. In fact, not all academics and scholars agree that a European democratic deficit even exists. Nonetheless, this essay will argue that it is valid to say that the EU suffers a democratic deficit and the aim is to provide evidence for its existence by focusing on the analysis of some of the "standard version's" claims. However, since the debate and the literature on this topic are massive, the first part of this essay will discuss the views of only two of the defenders of the democratic deficit because it is important to understand the reasons for this long-lasting debate over the topic. Then, the second part of the essay will focus, in contrast, on the analysis of the reasons why it is believed that the EU lacks democracy and finally, the conclusion of the essay will refer to some of the proposed reforms that could reduce or even diminish the democratic deficit in the European Union.

As it was said earlier, not all theorists agree that there is a lack of democracy in the EU. Two of the major theorists that defend the democratic deficit are Giandomenico Majone and Andrew Moravcsik, who argue that "the EU is in fact as democratic as it could, or should, be (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, pp. 4). As Majone (1998, p. 5) states in one of his articles, "arguments about Europe's democratic deficit are really arguments about the nature and the ultimate goals of the integration process". This statement explains why each theorist comes up with different opinions and reasons for the democratic deficit, if that. Depending on how one views the EU, different forms of governance and ideals for legitimacy and democracy will be required. Majone and Moravscik are not an exception. Both of them have distinct views of Europe's political structure and integration. Even if they both agree that democratic deficit does not exist in the EU, they do not share the same reasons or evidence. To begin with, Majone sees the EU as a "regulatory state" (like the US), in which there are the non-majoritarian institutions of Europe and the majoritarian institutions of the Member states which complement each other (Majone, 2000) and "in which budget constraints lead the government to rule by regulation rather than by taxation and spending" (Zweifel, 2002, p. 814). Therefore, the EU functions by regulatory policies instead of redistributive ones, and for that reason the policy outcomes are Pareto-efficient, which means that there is a balance, in which some or all benefit and no one loses. Majone believes that if the EU would become ‘more democratic', Pareto-efficient...
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