In view of the limits on the powers of the European Parliament it isoften argued that there is a democratic deficit in the EU. On the basis of yourknowledge, do you agree, and how can the deficit be removed? Does the draftconstitution assist to redu...

Authors Avatar

In view of the limits on the powers of the European Parliament it is often argued that there is a democratic deficit in the EU. On the basis of your knowledge, do you agree, and how can the deficit be removed? Does the draft constitution assist to reduce the democratic deficit?

One of the few issues concerning the EU which is generally agreed upon is that the EU suffers a ‘democratic deficit’. This ‘democratic deficit’ relates to the detachment between EU institutions and the citizens of the member states. European Parliamentarians are the first to point this out in efforts to attain greater power over the legislative and executive processes and thus remedying this deficit. Since 1979 the European Parliament has been the only directly elected body. As such it has been proposed that its powers should be increased as it is the institution which is representative of the citizens. As Jean Luc Deharne stated in 2003 ‘…if the EU suffers from a democratic deficit, there is only one basic thing to do: to increase the power of the elected representatives of the citizens’ – these consisting of national Parliaments and European Parliamentarians.

The issue of democracy within the European Parliament stems from the beginnings of this institution. The European Parliament had originally very few powers; its functions were merely advisory and supervisory and it was not intended as a legislative body. When the economic and political powers of the Community became more obvious, critics became more concerned with the lack of democratic process and accountability within the European Parliament. It was thought to be ridiculous that a parliament did not have the power to initiate legislation. The powers of the European Parliament have been increased since it became an elected body with successive decisions of the ECJ and amendment to the treaties. For example it was given a consulting role in the legislation process and final say over certain aspects of the budget. But are these increased powers enough to remove the democratic deficit? I would say not and consider that even with its extended powers, Europe is still fundamentally undemocratic.

My first reason for agreeing with the democratic flaw is based on the distribution of seats in the European Parliament. Members of European Parliament according to each member state are determined largely on population; the number of MEP’s of a member state should reflect the population, however this is not exactly the case. For example, Germany has 99 MEP’s. If the same ratio of Germany’s number of MEP’s to its population were applied to Malta, Malta would not have any seats in European Parliament. Malta does in fact have three MEP’s and as such is over represented. I do not however consider this to be a great contributing factor to the issue of the democratic deficit as it would be more undemocratic not to give Malta a voice in European Parliament and if it had no MEP’s, the citizens of Malta would not be represented at all.

Join now!

I think the election process itself has more significance in the issue of democracy as the election process is different between member states and thus there is no uniformity in the way in which MEP’s are elected. A greater argument is regarding the low vote turn out; the low number of votes suggests that European Parliament is unlikely to be representative of the member states. The fact that few citizens feel it important enough to vote for the European Parliament is perhaps indicative of its lack of democracy; they do not view European Parliament to have enough power over ...

This is a preview of the whole essay