Deficient Democracy

By Serbanescu, Irina | Harvard International Review, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Deficient Democracy


Serbanescu, Irina, Harvard International Review


The EU Body Politic

On February 7, 1992, ministers of 12 European states signed a treaty ratifying the formation of the European Union (EU).

The document, which came to be known as the Maastricht Treaty, stated in its first article: "This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen."

It was thus part of the intention of the EU'S founders to create a democratic, autonomous political body that would be directly responsible to the European people. But how close does the EU'S population feel to the decisions made in its name? If voter turnout can provide any approximation, the 1999 elections for the European Parliament reveal a populace severely estranged from its representative body. In an all-time low turnout, fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, marking the latest stage in a persistent downward trend since the first elections in 1979.

The people of Europe are justifiably alienated from the EU body politic. Little of the power-making lies with the representatives actually elected by the people, while those who wield true power have little connection or accountability to the people. The 1999 vote revealed a long-term political malaise that has steadily grown in the shade of these institutions. Unfortunately, this trend in public apathy risks perpetuating the already non-democratic nature of the EU.

The power structure of the three governing bodies of the EU--the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament--is a principal cause of the public's disengagement. Of these, the 20-member European Commission holds the executive power. The Commission's encompassing powers include proposing all of the Union's legislation, supervising its enactment by the member states, and managing the EU's annual budget. Much of the remaining power in the Union lies with the Council of Ministers, the Union's legislative organ. Its members are cabinet ministers of European states who, in their capacity as EU ministers, are responsible for adopting and amending the legislation proposed by the Commission. The third institution, the 629-member European Parliament, is the only one elected directly by the people, but it is also the least powerful body in the EU. Although it is democratically elected, its powers are almost strictly advisory.

This concentration of power is particularly detrimental to voter confidence because of the lack of accountability of the bodies that do hold significant power. Although the Commission is integral to EU policy-making, its members are not chosen by the European people. The Commission's members are chosen first by a nomination from their national government. The nominated commissioners must then receive, as a group, the confirmation of the European Parliament. Because the Parliament's power of confirmation is so unwieldy, and because it would be such a harsh rebuke of the national governments, the Parliament has never exerted its veto power over an entire Commission. Thus it is largely up to the national governments to choose good Commissions in the first place. Unfortunately governments often award the post of commissioner to politicians whose domestic careers have expired at the national level. These politicians may be unqualified to be commissioners, having been forced into retirement by their inability to d eal with even domestic politics. A notorious example is Edith Cresson, former prime minister of France, who was awarded the technology portfolio in the Commission headed by Jaques Santer. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Deficient Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.