POLITICS OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION (Coursework Sample)
Overview: During the first half of this course, we examined the history of the integration process, as well as the institutional structure of the EU. As part of this process, we studied not only the structure and functions of European institutions, but also their effects on political processes at the national level. The relationship between politics at the European and the national levels form the basis of your midterm examination. Prompt: Although the concept of the ‘democratic deficit’ is widely cited, there is a great deal of debate over whether it actually exists. Does the EU suffer from a ‘democratic deficit’? If so, where? If not, why not? Requirements: To address this question, your paper should use course readings and lecture materials to do the following: 1. Define the “democratic deficit”. 2. Compare/contrast assessments of the “democratic deficit” as detailed in course readings. 3. Evaluate these arguments, using your understanding of the European Union (e.g., political institutions, public opinion, party politics, and interest aggregation). 4. Use the above to construct your argument as to whether (and where) a “democratic deficit” exists in the EU.
Historians have different perspectives about Europe in regard to geographical organization, ideation, and politics. McCormick (2010) believed that Europe represents one of the largest economies in the world. European Union solidifies the economy through trade agreements. Their approach to peace has also been quite different from other related economies such as the US. In EU, war is unthinkable due to a different approach to peace. However, critics have believed that EU represents one of the volatile regions and has failed on immigration. The concept of regional integration is also different with unclear borders. One of the most debatable concepts is the democratic deficit associated with the European Union. Hence, this paper examines the concept of a democratic deficit as explored in the course materials and evaluate these arguments based on my understanding of the EU.
The concept of democratic deficit denotes an insufficient level conventional democracy, especially in political institutions and processes. The assessment of the level of democratic deficit is determined by looking at the procedural features of democracy as portrayed in the aspects of representation and decision making. Thus, the idea of democratic deficit covers misrepresentations citizens to government procedures. While any democratic environment can possibly experience a democratic deficit, the notion has been widely used in the context of EU. Democratic deficit has been widely used to criticize the EU's levels of democracy in that there exist a deficiency of national institutions that are not adequately represented at the European Union level. In other words, the EU democratic configuration has been mostly criticized due to an insufficient amount of parliamentary control over the decision-making processes.
One reason behind the criticism is that unlike the EU member states, the capacity of the European Parliament remains marginal since the executive part of the government plays a significant role in the legislative process. Secondly, the small nature of the EU has been criticized as being far from the ordinary citizens to an extent of not being able to adequately support democratic governance and participation in decision making hence unable to adequately represent the interests of the common citizens. Another angle to view democratic deficit from EU perspective is that it has been criticized of being undemocratic since the executive members are not directly relied and accountable to their citizens, hence their interests are unlikely to be reflected in the deliberations.
However, the negative perspective of the EU democratic deficit has been challenged by scholars such as cite, who argue that the European parliamentary model does not form a suitable benchmark for assessment of the democracy at the EU level. The level of ordinary citizen's satisfaction regarding their influence is difficult to determine since the idea of integration of Europe has been contested by different EU citizens hence democratic deficit may be difficult to establish. In addition, the democratic legitimacy in the EU has been strongly associated with the welfare matters. Since the models of warfare differ radically from one nation to another in Europe, EU cannot take over the warfare responsibility and utilize them for democratic legitimacy. Thus, while the increasing influence of the EU is understood as a positive development, the discussion about the democratic deficit mainly depends on the benchmarks utilized.
The perception about the democratic deficit, as discussed in course readings, differ from one author to the other. Hix and Hoyland (2011) (cited in lecture notes) form one of the authors who criticize democracy in EU. They suggest that the integration of Europe supports the EU institutions as well as the national executives, leaving the national parliament unattended. The integration of these nations increases the dominance of the executive with little to no consideration of the national parliaments. In other words, the increased authority of the European Parliament (EP) offers no compensation for the weak parliaments of the member nations. The ordinary citizens are not accounted for in the in the European Parliament system. In addition, the policy drifts at the EP level results to the enactment of policies that are opposed by the majority.
Additionally, from Hix and Høyland argument, EU is procedurally legitimate but lacks a legitimate electoral system hence leading to a democratic deficit. In other words, the EU has no democracy in the electoral system due to lack of competitive party politics that would allow for a fair choice of representatives by the majority. Hence, Hix (2008) reading offers a remedy on how to fix the democratic deficit in the EU. First, he argues that there is a need to enhance democracy in the EP by incorporating imitated competitive politics to increase electoral legitimacy. He believes that competitive politics can reduce or erase the democratic deficit by allowing permissive consensus. This would establish a decision-making process that creates a majority (winners) and minority (loses) which he claims to be the basis of the modern decision-making process, leading to better policy results and reduced gridlock.
A politically competitive EU can accomplish a number of things. First, the competition can force the politicians to think critically about the policies they make, leading to policy innovation. It can also lead to institution-wide collaboration boosting political accountability. In addition, competitive politics can allow citizens to understand the EU better and shape their opinion about matters affecting them (Hix, 2018). The majority control and the minority watch can increase accountability and transparency among the council of Ministers by availing debates and documents to citizens.
Hix recommends that the European Commission should adopt competitive parties that make the presidential candidate known to the public prior to the European Union Election. In addition, the presidential candidates should avail explicit manifesto that provides a guideline on how appointments will be made and the key agenda. A televised presidential candidates’ debate can also help shape the opinion of the public and promote democracy. Thus, the argument of Hix appears to be centered on the benchmark as the recommended pathway to democratic legitimacy in the electoral system of the EU reflects the nature of parliamentary and executive system in the US.
Furthermore, Schmidt (2006) admits that the European Union lack an open electoral system which evidently lacks democracy. However, he acknowledges that the EU facilitates representation and protection of minority interests and rights, hence the deficit does not exist at the EU level. He argues that the deficit exists at the national level in that at the EU level, policies are made without politics but at the national level, politics dominate without policies leading to ripple effects. The national institutions do not always get what they wish to from the European Union which shows there is vague support. Thus, Schmidt believes that creating a politically competitive environment in EU cannot solve the democratic issues that exist since only the winners would be more privileged. He argues that the politicians at the national level should approach policy and politics from a different perspective. The national politicians should be honest about the significance of the EU and address the issues at the national level.
However, Moravcsik (2002) believes that EU is democratically legitimate from the perspective of how democratic politics is as opposed to how people think it should be. He argues EU has checks and balances that eliminate the possibility of tyranny. The highly democratic nations and enhanced EP ensures that the demands of ordinary citizens are met. He argues that the states have indirect control and dominance on the EU institutions and that the cost of running this institution is small. In terms of accountability, he argues that the EP offer direct overseeing of policies while national elections provide indirect accountability, although this argument sounds unconvincing. Therefore, he argues that EU should not expand its democratic participation since legitimacy does not al
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