Democratic Deficit in the EU.
Democratic Deficit in the EU
The European Union continues to play a vital role in domestic areas of policy, but many people, however, still perceive the union as being ‘distant’ and believe the EU has little involvement and influence. The European Parliament is the only body which they have any control over and is by far the weakest. In my opinion the European Parliament can never make the Union democractic, because the average voter will always relate to his or her national political institutions more favourably as important decisions are seen to be taken behind ‘closed doors’.
The EU seems distant to most people, all the citizens can do is to vote for their MEP every few years who then sits in a parliament of around 600 people. The MEP in question does not have much say in what is going on. The main problem is that the EU Commission takes many important decisions even though none of its members are elected (they are chosen by individuals states). Many suggest the Commission is faceless and unaccountable. Many argue that here lies the democratic deficit and that it is the elected European Parliament that should have the bulk of the powers.
The term ‘Democratic Deficit’ implies a gap in the EU between domestic practice in theory and in reality.(Lodge 1993).
This is a preview of the whole essay
David Marquand coined his famous phrase “democratic deficit” to describe the functioning of the European Community.
Politicians began to take the issue of the democratic deficit seriously from 1992, when, Danish voters failed to ratify 'The Treaty on European Union'. Leaders could no longer afford to continue to appear unaccountable. As more aspects of national sovereignty are transferred to the European level, the ability of citizens to influence and supervise this new power base has deteriorated considerably. The main emphasis lies with the three main "institutions" of the European Union - the Commission, the European Council and Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. It is the connection between the European Union's institutions where the 'democratic deficit' has gained the most publicity. The erosion of the national governments, over policy areas, has been the result of the hurrying of European integration. Continuous amendments to the institutions powers have meant that areas were national governments used to govern have now been transferred to the European Union. Relatively unaccountable institutions have taken over responsibility from the accountable national governments of the member states. Many argues that European Commission is anything but democratic as it is made up largely of elderly white males who are un-elected and appointed by National Governments, who have the right to initiate legislation and control of:
- Implementation of community policy.
- Conducts external relations on behalf of the EU member states.
- Manages the EU’s budget.
Dinan describes it as a "strategic authority established by the founding fathers to 'guarantee continuity of the integration project despite the political or geopolitical hazards'
In a general sense “democracy” indicates a method by which society exercises influence on the process of governmental issues.
According to Craig (2003) different features can be distinguished concerning the democracy argument:
- ‘distance issue’: The assumption commonly made is that if the EU did not exist then matters within its capabilities would be dealt with at national level. Decesions would them be made closer to people hence alleviating this problem and parliaments would have greater control.
- ‘executive dominance issue’: The integration process enhances the power of the (Council and Commission). This is because of the dominance of the Council as well as the European Council in the decision-making process of the EC.
- ‘bypassing of democracy argument’. The EC’s complex committee structure, known as Comitology, serves as the most prominent example of the democracy argument. Interest groups dominate the policy-making excluding more regular channels of democratic governance.
- ‘transparency and complexity issue’. The very complexity of the legislative procedures mean that it is virtually impossible for even experts to understand them. In addition much of the decision-making of the Union takes place behind closed doors.
- ‘substantive imbalance issue’. It is argued that the most important element in a democratic polity is to maintain the balance between market liberalisation and social protection. The EU cannot maintain this balance despite significant support for the maintenance of welfare systems because of a mere liberal prejudice in the constitutional structure of the EU.
RULE OF LAW
Hans van den Broek called the rule of law and democracy a central part of the EU's enlargement strategy. He said the Union would not accept as a member any country which is not fully committed to these principles. Source:
The Rule of Law is the base of a civilised society. Under the rule of law no one is above the law. No one is invincible and it applies equally to government and governed alike. However rich or well contacted no one is outside the law. It’s the duty of those elected to make the law to respect the law.
The Rule of Law requires individuals at the top of their profession should they be, judges, policemen, civil servants and that they maintain levels to their highest standard. All of which must work together and be properly equipped and funded to do their jobs.
The EU defines the rule of law as a constitutional system whereby the different organs of the state are aligned and limited in such a way that the state cannot illegally infringe on a citizen's rights. In this area EU law itself provides no specific parameters for the necessary reforms; in other words, with regard to the rule of law, acquis communautaire does not exist.
The general description of the term subsidiary is not about transferring powers from central to national, regional and local level according to the Commission. Many suggest that the term is used by those who want to believe that the Commission is interested in giving powers to lower levels of decision making, although proposals show that this is not the case.
The principle of subsidiary is described as a "non-starter" for distribution of powers between EU-level and national level. There are no proposals for how the principle could be put into practice, except the possibility of introducing "control procedures” to ensure compliance with the principles of “subsidiarity".