Evaluating The European Union In Terms Of Democracy

2197 words - 9 pages

The European Union (EU), since the initial foundation in 1952 as the European Coal and Steel Community and throughout periods of development, has been considered one of the most advanced forms of regional integration. Based on numerous terms and treaties, it has strived to promote values such as peace, cooperation or democracy, and in 2012 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” (Nobel Media AB, 2012). Despite such achievements, there has been a constant criticism that the EU suffers democratic deficit, or lacks democratic principles, thereby having its legitimacy weakened. This essay will address the criticism firstly by establishing the concept of democracy and introducing theoretical explanations on the EU. After a brief description of the EU’s connection with democracy based on its history and treaties and the concept of legitimacy, the criticism will then be discussed from two dimensions: institutional structures and the citizens’ relation to the EU. Lastly by remarking measures to alleviate the deficiency, it will draw a conclusion that although the EU is fundamentally associated with democracy, implementation of measures to improve its democratic representation is required to reinforce its legitimacy.
In evaluating the EU in terms of democracy, it is helpful to establish the notion of democracy. While literal definitions, for example from Oxford Dictionary (2014), manage to describe the system as being governed “by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives”, democracy has been more flexible both in theory and in practice, and academic literature has provided numerous descriptions with different focuses. Caporaso (2000: 43) thus suggests a tentative definition as a process of collective decision making of which political culture facilitates the participation and competition of the citizens. Adding relevancy to the EU, Mather (2006: 59-60) introduces a compound concept of “liberal representative democracy” which relates two other concepts to democracy: liberalism and representation, through which citizens become enabled to limit and authorise polities according to their rights, interests or opinions. In addressing the issue of democracy in the EU, participation and representation will be considered as main values.
Apart from democracy, academic attempts to categorise or define the EU within a specific theoretical view have not been very successful due to its unique, thus complicated, identity. Some ideas on conceptual roles and benefits of the EU as an international institution may be offered by institutionalism, but other theories have focused on many different aspects and have yielded different explanations accordingly (Chari & Kritzinger, 2006: 38-39). Its multilevel structure draws attention from theories which question to which political actor belongs the political...

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