Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities

Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities

Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities

Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities

Synopsis

Democracy in Europeis about the impact of European integration on national democracies. It argues that the oft-cited democratic deficit is indeed a problem, but not so much at the level of the European Union per se as at the national level. This is because national leaders and publics have yet to come to terms with the institutional impact of the EU on the traditional workings of their national democracies.

The book begins with a discussion of what the EU is-a new form of 'regional state' in which sovereignty is shared, boundaries are variable, identity composite, and democracy fragmented. It then goes on to examine the effects of this on EU member-states' institutions and ideas about democracy, finding that institutional 'fit' matters. The 'compound' EU, in which governing activity is highly dispersed among multiple authorities, is more disruptive to 'simple' polities like Britain and France, where governing activity has traditionally been more concentrated in a single authority, than to similarly 'compound' polities like Germany and Italy.

But the book concludes that the real problem for member-states is not so much that their practices have changed as that national ideas and discourse about democracy have not. The failure has been one of the 'communicative' discourse to the general public-which again has been more pronounced for simple polities, despite their potentially greater capacity to communicate through a single voice, than for compound polities, where the 'coordinative' discourse among policy actors predominates.

Excerpt

Democracy in Europe is about the impact of European integration on national democracies. It argues that the oft-cited democratic deficit is indeed a problem, but not so much at the level of the European Union per se as at the national level. This is because national leaders and publics have yet to come to terms with the institutional impact of the EU on the traditional workings of their national polities.

The book begins with a discussion of what the EU is—a new form of regional state in which sovereignty is shared, boundaries are variable, identity composite, and democracy fragmented. But the main focus of the book is on how the EU has altered national governance practices, thereby challenging national ideas about democracy. It finds in particular that the EU's 'policy without politics' has led to 'politics without policy' at the national level. The book also shows that institutional 'fit' matters. The compound EU, in which governing activity is highly dispersed among multiple authorities, is more disruptive to simple polities like Britain and France, where governing activity has traditionally been more concentrated in a single authority, than to similarly compound polities like Germany and Italy. But the book concludes that the real problem for member-states is not so much that their democratic practices have changed as that national ideas and discourse about democracy have not. The failure has been one of the communicative discourse to the general public—a problem which again has been more pronounced for simple polities, despite political leaders' potentially greater capacity to communicate through a single voice, than for compound polities, where the coordinative discourse among policymakers predominates.

This book, then, goes beyond the usual discussion of European integration in terms of policy and politics to focus on polity issues. It offers theoretical insights into the democratic implications of the EU's international organizational form, the interactions between the EU and national institutions, and the role of ideas and discourse in democratic adjustment. But it also provides detailed empirical studies of matched pairs of cases to elucidate the differential impact of the EU on its member-states.

The book has had a long gestation. It began in the mid-1990s as part of a larger project to examine the political economic and institutional impact of . . .

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