Before the issue of democracy within the EC can be considered, it needs to be defined. Democracy is, 'a form of government in which the people have a voice in the exercise of power

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There is little doubt that a ‘Democratic deficiency’ exists within the European Community (EC).  In an attempt to address this a ‘European Constitution’, has been recently drawn up and signed.  Even at this early stage the Constitution has received a mixed reception.  However, it could be argued that a ‘constitution in all but name’ exists in the form of the EC Treaty (as amended).  Despite this, the EC Treaty is ‘still lacking in democracy’.  This needs to be assessed in the context of previous (and proposed) reforms.

Before the issue of democracy within the EC can be considered, it needs to be defined.  Democracy is,

‘a form of government in which the people have a voice in the exercise      of power, typically through elected representatives

Within the EC, this means that the institutions (Commission, European Council primarily) should be accountable to the citizens through elected representatives, the European Parliament (EP).  As such the EP should, in theory, be one of the most powerful institutions within the EC, however this is hardly ever a reality.

As regards the role of a Constitution the following gives some insight into the function it should perform:

‘the rules and practices that determine the composition and function of the organs of government in a state and regulate the relationship between the individual and the state’

This does not fully address all the functions a Constitution should perform, however for the purposes of the question this definition is sufficient.  

The issue of the ‘lack of democracy’ has also been much debated over the years.  

‘The fate of the construction of the Community will be decided or, rather, will be reflected in institutional matters over the coming 10 years. The institutions of a European Union of 25 Member States cannot be the same as those of a European Community of 12. They must be different. The problem will be, not only to preserve the qualities of efficacy, democracy and transparency which these institutions have undeniably acquired, but also to reinforce them in order to win over the full and wholehearted support of the people’

This shows that even 10 years ago, the EC was facing a possible (democratic) crisis if it did not change.  This it shows a great deal of foresight as to the future of the EC.  In addition it shows how central the citizens are to the survival of the EC and the preservation and/or restoration of democracy.  

The relationship between the Commission and the EP is central to the democratic life of the EC.  The Commission is an independent body, which (should) act not for the good of individual member states but for the good of the EC as a whole.  Under the original EC Treaty the EP Parliament had very little power.  Prior to the Treaty of European Union (TEU) the only power the EP had relating to the Commission, was a vote of censure/no confidence, however this power could not be exercised effectively as the Commission meet in secret.  The TEU tried to remedy this by increasing the powers of the EP indirectly, by increasing the powers of the Court of Auditors, who are allowed to go into Commission Headquarters and scrutinise how the EC budget is being spent – subsequent Treaties have increased their powers.  An Ombudsman was also appointed, responsible for dealing with any problems, which should arise, both report back to the EP.  This made a vote of censure a more realistic prospect, as the acts of the Commission are no longer secret.  This power has never been used, however, it was threatened in 1999, but was never used.  Both of these procedures increased the accountability and subsequent democracy, of the Commission when exercising its powers. As regards the appointment of the Commission, the TEU allowed the EP to ‘vet’ potential Presidents and individual members of the Commission and if it was not satisfied with the choice could reject the Commission ‘En Bloc’.  This power goes some way to giving the EP indirect control over the Commission and was ‘a step in the right direction’ for EC democracy.  This power has been used as recently as October 2004, when the entire Commission was rejected all because of the views of the Italian Commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione.  

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Also, since the Treaty of Amsterdam (ToA) the President of the Commission can now reject individual candidates.  The powers of the President of the Commission have been increased further under Treaty of Nice (ToN).  The Constitution would change the appointment procedure slightly – each member state would put forward three candidates and the President would have to select one of the three.  

The Comitology procedure is another area where greater democracy is called for, but has not been fully realised.  Comitology is involved only when the Commission acts regarding Secondary/Delegated legislation.  Comitology is the process by which ...

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