The Issue of Legitimacy – EU Action in Selected Policy Areas

  • Abstract:

    The question of EU democratic legitimacy has been raised in connection with referenda, turnout in European Parliament (EP) elections and, more recently, in relation to the Eurozone crisis. Views on legitimacy deficit range from “no deficit” to “double deficit”. Often they reflect diverging understandings of democracy or are discussed by analogy to national political systems. Sources of legitimacy refer to input (participation), output (outcome) or throughput (decision-making process); they are located at member state or EU level. The question is to what extent these approaches are appropriate for analysing the EU political system with its peculiarities, complexities and multi-level nature and whether a combination / interaction of different sources are at play. Concepts and insights from the academic debate will be used to analyse two policy domains: EMU and CSDP. At first sight the two areas are very dissimilar and thus a common examination seems counter-intuitive. EMU is one of the most integrated policy areas; ECB is a supranational institution, while other institutions also intervene; the recent crisis has shown the shortcomings of Eurozone governance and has triggered controversy and policy proposals, including on democratic quality. CSDP is one of the least integrated policy areas following standard criteria; ruled by the inter-governmental method its legitimacy stems essentially from the national level; issues such as power distribution between executives and parliaments, but also constraints / requirements linked to EU defence cooperation need to be addressed. The paper will explore aspects of legitimacy in the two policy areas and examine whether insights can be gained from a parallel investigation despite differences in the institutional setup and whether a combination of different sources could ensure legitimacy which is essential for the long term viability of policies at European level.