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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsAmong many criticisms that are formulated in relation to the way European Union is functioning, the one of democratic deficit is particularly well known and often raised. What is, then, democratic deficit? Why do we say that the European Union suffers from democratic deficit? Of course, the European Union is, strictly speaking, not a state. It's certainly not a state. It is an international organization of democratic nation states. Therefore, indirectly it is democratic, because all the member states are democratic. And all national parliaments or national governments that decide everything in Europe, they have democratic mandate, democratic support. However, the question is, what about European institutions? What about the European Parliament? What about the European Commission?

Skip to 1 minute and 8 secondsThe European Parliament now-- because in the past it was different-- today, the European Parliament, of course, is directly elected. Euro MPs are directly elected by citizens of their respective states and their respective communities. So in this sense, they are democratic. They have democratic mandate. But there is no such thing as the European demos yet. There is no European political system.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsAnd therefore, the election to the European Parliament is organized separately in each of the member states, which perhaps is one of the biggest problems for Europe from the political point of view, because citizens do not necessarily know what is it that the European Parliament is doing, what is it that it is responsible for, what are the issues which are being discussed at the European Parliament and how it relates to national parliaments, what is really the difference between national parliaments and the European Parliament, what are the competences that are required of candidates for European MPs. This is a bit vague. It could be better.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 secondsIt would be better if we can overcome this problem by creating a single European political system, the system of European parties, European Socialists, European Conservatives, European Christian Democrats, and so on, for parties which would compete for seats in European Parliament, parties which will present their programs for Europe as such for the whole of European Union, and would be voted for by European citizens. But that's a matter of the future, because of course, this would require further delegation of power by European member states to the European institutions. But there is a question of developing competences of European parliament, and of the reputation of European Parliament as an institution, which really solves problems for Europe and for European citizens.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 secondsAnother question with deficit of democracy is the European Commission, which is particularly always raised in this context. The European Commission, of course, has the democratic mandate, because it is controlled to some extent by the European Parliament, increasingly so over the years, and nearby national governments. But as such, the European Commission is neither elected by the European Parliament nor directly controlled in the way that national governments are by national parliaments. It is seen as a bunch of bureaucrats who are pretty independent and do not represent citizens. Citizens do not have the feeling that they can influence and directly control the European Commission.

Skip to 4 minutes and 21 secondsSo obviously, this is one of the reasons why there is a certain suspicion that the European Commission often acts in its own logic, in a way which is not seen as fully democratic. But perhaps, again, if we change the system of European governance in such a way that it's more like national government, directly elected, directly controlled by the Parliament, then the whole system will be more transparent. And then, citizens will have a feeling that just as there is democracy on the local level, just as there is democracy on national level, in the same way and in the same logic, there will be democracy on the European level.

The European democratic deficit debate

In this video, Professor Zdzislaw Mach explains why the European institutions have often been criticised for suffering from a democratic deficit.

Among many criticisms that are formulated in relation to the way the European Union is functioning, the one of democratic deficit is particularly well-known and often raised. What is then democratic deficit? Why do we say that the European Union suffers from democratic deficit? And what are the possible solutions? And, is a creation of a European state a solution?

Professor Mach discusses how democratic deficit would be resolved by a reform of a European political system that is more in line with a national political system. He lists a creation of a single European political system with European parties that compete on a European level elections and a directly elected European government which is controlled by the European Parliament as examples.

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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