The European Union and the People

The European Union and the People

The European Union and the People

The European Union and the People


The European Union is frequently accused of having a 'democratic deficit'. Many commentators argue that this could be remedied by increasing the powers of the European Parliament relative to those of the Council and the Commission. The fact that the European Parliament is the only EUinstitution whose members are directly elected leads to the assumption that it is also the most legitimate. The author argues that this position is based on the flawed assumption that the nature of the European citizenry is similar to those of the member states. In other words, the position assumesthat the union has a demos, or a people, who are prepared to accept majority outcomes even when finding themselves in the minority. In this book the author argues that this is not the case and that the most severe dimension of the democracy problem is not procedural, but socio-psychological. Thefact that the EU does not have a people means that establishing an EU-wide democracy based on analogies to domestic political systems is likely to lead to a further loss of democratic legitimacy. The EU can rely on output legitimacy in policy areas which do not require pan-European solidarity andidentity and in which policy-making at EU-level increases efficiency and thereby benefits all citizens. However, policy areas which require high levels of solidarity or a common identity should either remain fully within the nation states, or be subject to intergovernmental rather than supranationaldecision-making at EU-level.


This book started its life as a Ph.D. thesis at The University of Nottingham in the autumn of 2000. Initially, my focus was on EU democracy and the difficulties in taking democratic government beyond the nationstate. What sort of institutions would be suitable, from where would legitimacy be derived, and would the publics be alienated from the political elites? After having done much research I realised that I needed to move my focus from the governing to the governed who, it seemed, had been overlooked. The results of this analysis are presented in this book.

At this stage I must emphasise that the bulk of the book was completed before the French and Dutch referendums on the EU’s constitutional treaty and that in no way should this book be seen as an attempt at creating a ’constitution equivalent’ to the black box of a crashed airliner. The aim of this book is not to explain referendum outcomes nor to uncover reasons for levels of public support for European integration in general. Instead, the book seeks to explain why the nature of the governed must determine which policy areas remain the responsibility of the nation states and which can be delegated to the EU level.

Over the years, I have discussed these issues with a number of academics, friends and taxi drivers. In particular, I would like to thank Andreas Bieler, Lori Thorlaksson and Arturo Alvarez-Rosete, all of whom read first versions of chapter two and provided valuable comments at that very early but important stage in the process. Matthjis Bogaards kindly read and offered detailed comments to a late version of chapter four, and Liz Monaghan provided comments to the completed draft. Finally, the reviewers gave valuable feedback for which I am grateful.

I would like to thank my Ph.D. supervisors at The University of Nottingham, Paul Heywood and Erik Jones, for their help and guidance over the years. It was Erik who initially opened my eyes to the notion that European integration presented an interesting area of study, something I

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