Democratic deficit in the european union

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European Union Politics The Democratic Deficit in the European Union: Much Ado about Nothing?
Christophe Crombez European Union Politics 2003; 4; 101 DOI: 10.1177/1465116503004001583 The online version of this article can be found at:

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European Union Politics [1465-1165(200303)4:1] Volume 4 (1): 101–120: 030583 Copyright© 2003 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks CA, New Delhi

The Democratic Deficit in the European UnionMuch Ado about Nothing?
Christophe Crombez
University of Leuven, Belgium, and Stanford University, USA


This paper studies the democratic deficit in the European Union (EU). It examines what constitutes a democratic deficit, analyzes whether there is one in the EU, and offers suggestions for a solution. I focus on the output of the legislative process and study whether policies deviatefrom those emerging in other political systems. In particular, I present a formal model of policy-making in a bicameral system, apply it to the EU, and compare the EU with the United States. I conclude that the institutional setup of the EU does not lead to policies that are fundamentally undemocratic, and that the composition of its institutions is not inherently less democratic than that of theUS political institutions. I also find, however, that a democratic deficit may exist owing to a lack of transparency and an excess of delegation in the legislative process.


democracy effectiveness enlargement European Union
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European Union Politics 4(1)

The European Union (EU) is currently organizing a ‘Convention on the Future of the European Union.’ The convention consists of representatives of the national governments and parliaments of the 15 member countries and the 13 accession countries, and representatives of the European Parliament and the Commission. Itstask is to prepare for institutional reform, and it may lead to a fifth round of major changes in the institutional setup of the EU in less than 20 years. According to the Commission (CEC, 2001) ‘[t]he key questions which the Convention should tackle are: what should Member States do together in the future Union [and] how should democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of the Union be improved?’ Thesequestions are particularly relevant in view of the imminent enlargement of the EU. The Nice Treaty altered the composition of the principal EU institutions to prepare for enlargement, with democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in mind, but, even if it is ratified, the intake of 13 new members may still complicate policy-making. The tightening of the qualified majority requirements in the Counciland the increases in the numbers of Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) may reduce effectiveness. The larger relative weight of smaller countries in the Commission may lead to a decline in democratic legitimacy. The democratic character and the effectiveness of the EU institutions are often questioned. Researchers, politicians, and journalists alike tend to characterize...
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