Lack Of Supranational Citizenship Indicate Deficiency Of Democracy In EU?

Why Does The Lack Of Supranational Citizenship Indicate Deficiency Of Democracy In EU?

Carly Elizabeth Schall has argued in her sociological inquiry that there is a lack of development of social citizenship in EU that challenges the potential for EU to be a democratic polity. By comparison, Schall stresses on how U.S successfully forms a national citizenship identity in its federal system to achieve democracy. The difference of whether there is “successful transference of citizenship identity from a lower to a higher level” (Schall, 1) is considered distinction between social citizenship in EU and U.S, and the deficiency of having a supranational citizenship hinders EU to be a truly democratic institution. While there may exist a consensus of categorizing the EU as a supranational polity engaging in post-national democracy, numerous differences exist concerning the interpretation of the latter. For historical and contemporary structural reasons, Europe Union has been established as a larger supranational organization. The collectivity of members in distinctiveness and a singularity within the supranational EU along with the central institutional instrument of the EU is now a party to the interstate strategic interaction, where community institutions combine instead of exercise exclusion. However, the combination of the community results in the deficiency of democracy of the Union since EU members fail to admit their supranational citizenship. The failure of recognition indicates that EU is unable to guarantee some opportunities which a Democratic Union should have to its citizens.

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The word citizenship is simply defined as “the position or status of being a citizen of a particular country”. Being a citizenship of a country portends that the person’s rights and safety are protected by the country. Moreover, citizenship is usually guaranteed with social rights and responsibilities in democratic unions just as Schall says in her article that “Democracy, thus, can be a mechanism for ensuring equal citizenship, but equal citizenship is also necessary for democracy to exist (schall, 127).  Citizenship and democracy are inseparably interconnected because only with citizenship can people exercise their basic rights in a democratic union. In regard to social rights of citizens, author Robert Dahl also indicates in his book On Democracy that “Democracy guarantees its citizens a number of fundamental rights that nondemocratic systems do not, and cannot grant (Dahl, 48) and “Democracy helps people to protect their own fundamental interests” (Dahl, 53). What Dahl mentions, rights of citizens and a government with basis of people, are the basic principles of democracy.  

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Among the social rights that are necessarily given to the citizens by the government, one of the most important is the direct and indirect universal suffrage (Coutant 12). In EU, citizens have the power to exercise their suffrage rights and vote on social policies. However, the decision making process is fairly complicated in this multi-governance political institution. The voting usually happens in the council, which is made up of representatives from member-states. Figure 1.1 illustrates the voting system within EU (Council of the EU). The votes are based on the representatives from each member-states, and based on different issues, the legislations are passed under different conditions: simple majority, qualified majority or unanimity. The process of voting by representatives seems similar to the Democratic Representative of United States. However, the deficit of EU is that the votes for member-states are based on population size, but are not representative of the population. This contradicts with William’s idea of democracy that “equalities was astate among the people” and people should all deserve equal respect in a democratic regime (Williams, 97).  EU voting system only protects the equality of the member-states but not the equality of citizens under the central institution. Moreover, although the European Parliament is elected by the citizens, the commission is designated by Governments of the Member States and the heads of the States. Council of minister of the Union is also only a meeting of the Minister of the States (Coutant, 2). The system retains the sovereignty of the federal institution and allows states to work closer in a confederation. This concept weakens public’s consciousness of supranational identity, and does not consider European citizen as one entity under the democratic regime.

Apart from the deficient voting system, the main actors in EU institutions are neither directly nor indirectly voted into their positions, which undermines democracy. In particular, the council of ministers and the European council are not chosen for the roles they play in the EU (Levenex 122). They chiefly represent the “national” instructs of individual states rather than the “partisan interests” of the people and the electoral constituencies as is the case in domestic politics. The European integration has thus largely remained driven by trustees and political leaders via “spillover” or engregage, leading to a form of multilevel system where the council, parliament, and Commission are engrossed in decision-making and negotiation on regulatory rules and directives for dealing with externalities at the top-most hierarchy levels of the union. In fact, one major reason why an EU citizenship is deficient is that it has gone against the common principle of governance “by the people.” The way EU manages its power is rather “for the people”, and democracy has been mainly driven by the union’s trustee via “integration by stealth” instead of the input of the people it represents. In fact, the power structure of the EU greatly contradicts William’s (93) philosophy of democracy – that a democratic form of governance should give all the power to its people. It is important to note that in classical parliamentary systems, the input of the citizens is directly regarded by the members of parliament whom they have elected into office (Kramnick, 127). This implies that members of parliament are responsible against the citizens, which is contrary to the case of the EU where people do no bear such power. The European Commission remains non-elected in nature and structure, and thus enjoys more power than that enjoyed by directly-elected members of parliament at the national level. Additionally, the EU commission does not obtain its legitimacy from the people, yet it plays a significant role in decision making processes.

The major disadvantage of the establishment of the EU supranational block via engerage as regards citizenship is that institutions and people in power have given precedence to “output” legality than to “input” legality and approved processes that provide backing for the “permissive consensus” of the public (Erik at al.  107) The decline of consensus post-Maastricht is an evidential case of this claim and highlights the manner in which the Eurozone crisis coupled with failed reforms have influenced a “constraining dissesus.” Essentially, the EU is nothing more than a multilevel polity wherein democracy is built on a weak citizen-oriented basis. According to Gutmann & Thompson (3), true democracy should be deliberative. The two authors argue that “leaders should give reasons for their decisions, and respond to the reasons that the citizens give in return.” However, the EU does not embody this characteristic (Bromley 165-166) but rather operates under a “permissive consensus.” The union’s “democratic” structure, indeed, acts as a stumbling block for transparency, accountability and responsiveness of other institutions existing in the European territory. It can be concluded that such deficit is a consequence of disregarding Europeans in the policymaking process and the failure of integrating networks of trust between institutions and the people they represent.

 The EU parliament also contributes immensely to the decay of EU supranational citizenship. Although it is the sole elected body in the union, the imbalance between the power it holds and the level of representation is a major drawback as far as democracy is concerned. Hypothetically, power and representation should be relational where one is specially structured to represent the citizens, and the other is not (Gutmann and Thompson 3). While the union’s parliamentary roles and power have been on the increase in a bid to enhance credibility and representation, the parliament itself has been largely undermined by the processes involving the development of institutions with a goal of delivering substantive outcomes without the involvement of the citizens. According to Franchino (243), the EU parliament bears comparatively lesser power in policymaking compared to the EU commission. As a result, the citizen’s rights and entitlements are not adequately protected as the institutional design is seemingly complex and separate from the people it represents.  

As opposed to national parliaments, EU parliament’s lack of responsiveness is complicated by the lack of policies where cooperation of collaborating parties undermines the representation of the people and their vote preferences. In actual fact, members of the EU parliament disproportionately represent the union’s supranational citizens as they can justify their decisions regardless of voter turnout (Rose 107). With regard to the element of decision-making, the new role of the EU parliament as a co-legislator implies that it relies heavily on informational tripartite meetings which are attended by the representatives of the parliament, the union’s council, and the Commission (The EU Parliament). The major downside of such meetings is that the majority representatives of the parliament can negotiate on a direct basis with the council at the expense of the communities and minorities they represent. Additionally, attendees of such meetings can often agree on certain decisions before their deliberation. In reality, this is one area where the EU parliament has significantly suffered from the lack accountability and transparency in decision-making. The decisions that the parliament makes without the involvement of the public undermine democratic representation and contribute to the systematic exclusion of the union’s citizens.

The gap in the transparency and accountability in the EU is mainly fueled by non-inclusive processes used by the union administration which consists of the Council of ministers and the European council (Scholten 44). These institutions have benefits more than the parliament itself because of the “permissive consensus” granted by the institution’s structure. While some decisions made by the two institutions may have been responsive to the needs of European citizens, the exclusionary measures used in the process of decision-making have largely undermined democracy at the supranational level. Notably, the council represents a body in wherein national executives are exposed to an indirect system of accountability that includes national electorates. Even so, these executives are not the main actors in policymaking but rather the council’s working groups which comprise the Coreper and the secretariat (Ginsberg 160). In addition to this reinforcement of unaccountability and non-transparency, the European commission is not censured for its policies. This results in public dissent against the union and apathy toward its institutions, decision-making processes, and elections. Equally, because the commissions’ headquarters are located in Brussels, the public perceives the commission as remote and democratically inexplicable and a mechanism through which select governments govern the EU community like a cartel.

Additionally, decisions made in the non-elected EU are more likely reached by third parties as an attribute to complex subject matters whereas citizens of Europe receive conclusions with regard to these decisions through press releases. This approach, in turn, disregards the disclosure of knowledge on how these decisions are made and infringes the foundation of deliberative democracy. Gutmann & Thompson (7) assert that a true democracy is one “in which free and equal citizens, along with their representatives, justify decisions in a process in which they give one another reasons that are mutually acceptable and generally accessible…” Notably, the practice of excluding European institutions is not a recent matter but was rather created over time through exclusive methods of interventions as well as the involvement of internal practices that have existed since the Single European Act alongside other EU treaties were passed.

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The role of special interest groups in a multilevel polity like the EU also suggests a deficiency in democracy. Four decades ago, the EU tried adopting to the inclusion of more people in the decision making the process by engaging expanded interest groups because of the limitations of democratic representation in the EU. Such interventions are common in the EU because many single-issue groups cannot act alone but rather need the support of EU fractions like parliament and the commission to access information, finances and support from the publics to fulfil their objectives. Per se, it is beneficial for both sides when citizens support single-interests groups because it eases their ability to influence the EU’s responsive efforts and also influence decision-making. Consequently, these mechanisms of intervening are highly dependent on output legitimacy instead of the delivery of input legitimacy, which mean they defy the very principles that underlie the promotion of democracy (Dahl 45). More so, these institutions consistently refute the inclusion of citizens in EU policy making. Although the viability of claims that tie EU business lobbying processes to increased involvement of business interest groups are questionable, it is evident that the success of lobbying shows a trend that ties interest groups with greater power and finances as compared to those with better relationships with the EU. The latter is consequential of the EUs disregard for public trust networks in deliberations and policy-making processes. As a result, citizens are eroded because lack of a balanced inclusion in the political process is a limitation of the democracy in the EU. Eventually, the issue of an imbalanced representation is a threat to the effectiveness as well as the efficiency of the decision-making framework in the EU.

In summary, supranational citizenship of EU suffers momentously from underrepresentation. The main consequences of the union’s informal institutions and embedded processes are the lack of representation in policymaking over and above the failure to integrate public interest groups in administrative and policymaking roles. Even though low voter turnouts may imply a significant voter indifference toward the union or their support for basic harmony in the organization’s decision-making, it may also symbolize a consistent citizen de-legitimation of the union’s democratic process that fails to include its key stakeholders in the vital process of policymaking. Perhaps, it is this underrepresentation that has significantly contributed to the loss of interest in EU politics. Notably, there is lack of a connection between the logic of national politics, which is perceived as generally democratic, and that of EU politics which is viewed as largely technocratic. The main cause for worry is the possibility that the union’s current weak attempts to sustain and democratize citizen interest in its politics may further reduce the inability of its leaders to develop viable solutions to deal with underrepresentation and democratic deficiencies.

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