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Title: Institutional reform in the European Union and the democratic deficit
Authors: Pace, Anton (2000)
Keywords: Democracy -- European Union countries
Political participation -- European Union countries
European Union
European Parliament
Law -- European Union countries
Issue Date: 2000
Citation: Pace, A. (2000). Institutional reform in the European Union and the democratic deficit (Master’s dissertation).
Abstract: This chapter attempts to lay down the foundations to fully understanding the problem of the so-called 'democratic deficit' at European Union level. This is no easy task, as the concept, just like the concept of democracy, has been used in different contexts by different academics, writers, journalists and politicians. Consequently, the word rests upon a rich and complex ambiguity. Christopher Lord compares the problem of defining the democratic deficit to the old story about blind men and elephants, which had been applied to the literature on European Integration, thirty years ago, by Donald Puchala. 'Several blind men approached an elephant and each touched the animal in an effort to discover what the beast looked like. Each blind man, however, touched a different part of the animal, and each concluded that the elephant had the appearance of the part he touched ... The total result was that no man arrived at a very accurate description of the elephant'. A similar problem exists as regards the democratic deficit in the European Union. Consequently, the concept has, been attributed to: • The shift in competences from national to European Union level as a result of the integration process; • The lack of transparency and; • Institutional matters such as the unelected character of the European Commission, the weakness of the European Parliament and the legislative making powers of the Council of Ministers; The withdrawal of powers from national parliaments and their inability to influence policy making at European Union level; • The lack of a European political identity, or 'demos', which is attributed to low voter participation in European elections. The democratic deficit denotes lack of democracy. This leads to a further problem, as the word democracy has similarly been redefined repeatedly, and the meaning of the concept has changed over time, as economic, social and political life has evolved. Starting from the Ancient Greeks, and moving on through the ages, democracy has been attributed to different political systems and the concept has been assumed to have different characteristics by different political thinkers and analysts. According to Yves Meny this is not surprising as, democracy is the product of culture and not a state of nature. And as such there is no such thing as a democratic model, but rather a set of democratic principles, whose implementation may vary from one polity to another. Since the concepts of democracy and democratic deficit have often been used to refer to different things and have often been abused, it is deemed appropriate to start by defining and clarifying the meaning of such terms. Consequently, this chapter is divided into two main parts. In Part I, the definition of democracy is expanded. In this part the main attributes of democracy as practised at state level in European countries are analysed. Although the political system of the European Community is not yet fully formed and is largely sui generis, politics in the European Community is not intrinsically different to the practice of government in any democratic system. As in all modem democratic political systems, European Community politics is dominated by questions of representation and participation, popular authorisation and accountability and it is only after understanding these concepts that one can fully comprehend the related problem of democratic deficit. In Part II, the Democratic Deficit is examined and the different arguments, put forward by various academics, leading to the democratic deficit at Community level are considered. The various approaches and arguments are presented under the headings identified above.
Description: M.A. EUROPEAN STUD.
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - InsEUS - 1996-2017

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