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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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Conclusions

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It is not easy to determine what exactly the democratic deficit in the EU is because there is no unanimous definition among specialists because both the objects indicated in this regard and the methods used to limit this phenomenon differ. Effectively there is insufficient academic consensus when specifying what such a deficit consists of since there are various elements of the EU capable of being typecast in such a critical item for their inadequacies, the panorama offered by analysts being then very varied, both in how it affects dimensions (diagnosis) and the possible formulas for solving the problem (therapies). From the outset, not even the perception of the problem is unanimous as some (the few) even deny the existence of such a supposed deficit. In fact, this is an issue that has interested some sectors of the political elites more than the bulk of the citizenry and will not do so until there is massive social demand for more democracy in the EU in times of the rising pressure of nationalist retraction.

On the one hand, there is much theoretical literature on the democratic deficit in the EU, but rather less – until recently – of an empirical nature on this matter. On the other, this debate is largely flawed for two reasons: 1) excessive prescriptive normativism and 2) a constant comparison (not always explicit) with the national State. Rigorous analysis must assess the democratic shortcomings of the EU as an entity in itself, independent of ideal models...

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