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Democracy in a supranational entity

Previously, we asked you if supranationalism is in a permanent state of crisis. We asked if citizen belonging - essential for the development of democracy - is possible in a post-national entity such as the European Union.

Fritz Scharpf presents an argument that European integration has affected democracy in a negative way. Because institutions are asymmetrical and power is dispersed among a variety of actors, the nation-state has not been able to effectively manage or counter the negative effects of globalisation. Scharpf suggests that the reduced capacity of democratic politics was furthered in the institutional reforms that were instituted during and after the Eurozone crisis.

Among the possible solutions for democratisation, Scharpf rejects the idea of subjecting the EU to popular vote. This step is not feasible and it is also not desirable in view of the political, economic, and cultural diversities in the Union. Scharpf also questions Habermas’s constitutional patriotism as a solution to the existence of multiple national identities in Europe. Demands of integration and effective decision-making, Scharpf argues, will always put a constrained on diversity.

Instead, Scharpf suggests the following:

  1. European law should not have a constitutional status, beyond the protection of fundamental civic and civil rights;
  2. Various actors should have the power to propose laws;
  3. Decisions should be taken by majority votes;
  4. Member states should have the possibility of an opt-out, but these opt outs can be denied under special voting procedures.
  5. What do you think of Scharpf's analysis? Do you agree with him?

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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