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The European Democratic Deficit

The Response of the Parties in the 2014 Elections

Cesáreo Rodríguez-Aguilera de Prat

The «never-ending crisis» that started in 2008 and the technocratic and fiscal measures demanded by the «Troika» have aggravated the EU’s so-called «democratic deficit» more than ever before. In this essay the principal theoretical and practical dimensions of this phenomenon at the levels of institution, procedure and social legitimacy are set out and developed. With this in mind, the dysfunctions in the architecture of the institutions, the elite, complex and opaque mechanisms in decision-making and, most importantly, the growing critical estrangement of many citizens reveals that poor democratic quality of the EU constitutes its principal and most serious political problem. To empirically illustrate this debate, Rodríguez-Aguilera evaluates the positions and proposals of the parties in the six most populous countries that have addressed this issue through a comparative analysis of their political programmes.
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This is the third book devoted to research on the positions of various national parties concerning European integration, in this case focused on the question of the so-called democratic deficit in the EU. The severe crisis that began in 2008 has highlighted more than ever the serious design problems of the common currency – the Euro – and the dysfunctional institutional architecture in the community unable to provide quick and effective responses to correct growing regional imbalances and serious social inequalities. More particularly, this has reached a stage in Europe in which the insufficient degree of democracy – despite some partial progress – can be seen as its main political problem and this is what will be analysed in this book. Indeed, it is increasingly untenable to continue ceding limitless parcels of national sovereignty to the EU with no democratic redress, that is, with no substantial compensation at the community level with institutional controls, procedural transparency and solid mechanisms of popular participation in decision-making processes. There is an often told yet meaningful in-joke circulating among civil servants in the community: if the EU were a state and requested admission to itself today, it would have to be turned down … for being insufficiently democratic!

The debate on democratic deficit has a long history – dating back clearly to the Treaty of Maastricht (1993) – and in this research its main dimensions are addressed at the levels of institution, procedure and social legitimacy. The first chapter discusses the EU as a very particular political...

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