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Democracy – A Win-Win Situation?

My Sisters Christmas. Private collection.

Christmas in my sister's family. Private collection.

The EU bases on principles of democracy. One can find provisions on representative democracy, and participatory democracy in the constitutive treaties of the EU.  Since the provisions lie in the constitutive treaties, one can also talk of constitutional democracy here.

There exist also other forms and sub-forms of democracy, such as – explained in one of the previous postings – the citizens’ initiative that is a form of participatory democracy.

In addition to internal relations, the EU honours the principle of democracy in external relations.

The Preamble of the TEU refers to democracy in the following context:

Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

[…]

Confirming […] attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law.

Article 2 TEU:

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

Article 10 TEU:

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

There are only two political communities (two entities represented):

• European citizens;

• National governments.

Chalmers and Monti, in the already referred book in this blog: European Union Law. Updating Supplement. Cambridge University Press, 2008, are of opinion that the principles of representation are unclear in this Article. “Representation relies upon the idea of some prior public or political community, which is then represented by institutions, which are also to be representative of it.” Thus, people in the EU are not represented solely by the European Parliament, but also by their Heads of State or Government and their governments in the European Council and Council.

National Parliaments remain secondary level representative bodies – and one can talk of national democracy on that level.

What does participatory democracy more exactly mean in the Treaty of Lisbon?

Article 11 (1), (2) and (3) TEU:

1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

This Article contains the principles of participation, transparency, and pluralism in the consultations.

Chalmers and Monti say (p. 45) that Article 11 bases on the Commission’s White Paper on the European Governance of the year 2001 that introduces a consultative process, and brings as an aim of participation to create „more confidence in the end result and in the institutions which deliver policies“.

One can also find: Communication from the Commission – Towards a reinforced culture of consultation and dialogue – General principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties by the Commission (COM/2002/0704) that first explains that interaction between the EU institutions and society takes various forms:

• primarily through the European Parliament as the elected representative of the citizens of Europe;

• through the institutionalised advisory bodies of the EU (Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions), based on their role according to the Treaties;

• and through (less formalized) direct contacts with interested parties.

This document further explains that there has not been a Commission-wide approach on how to undertake consulting interested parties from outside when formulating its policies (external consultation). “Each of the departments has had its own mechanisms and methods for consulting its respective sectoral interest groups. While this has undoubtedly created many examples of good relationships between the Commission and interest groups, there is a general view, shared by many within the Commission and those whom it consults, that the process should be more consistent”.

Thus, the principal aims in that document have been brought as:

• To encourage more involvement of interested parties through a more transparent consultation process, which will enhance the Commission’s accountability;

• To provide general principles and standards for consultation that help the Commission to rationalize its consultation procedures, and to carry them out in a meaningful and systematic way;

• To build a framework for consultation that is coherent, yet flexible enough to take account of the specific requirements of all the diverse interests, and of the need to design appropriate consultation strategies for each policy proposal;

• To promote mutual learning and exchange of good practices within the Commission.

This document obliges both the Commission, and the lobbyists.



One Response to Democracy – A Win-Win Situation?

  1. avatar Ralf Grahn says:

    As long as the European Union is based on member states, it does not meet the requirements of the Copenhagen criteria on democracy, so it would not be allowed as a member.

    While a worthwhile ambition, propagating democracy in the wider world becomes a somewhat tainted objective because of that.

    The basic flaw persists, despite elements of representative democracy (European Parliament), participatory democracy (citizens’ initiative) and other gestures to reduce the distance (communications, advice, consultations; exercises in transparency).

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