The European Parliament Doesn’t Represent the People of Europe and Hence Lacks Legitimacy

European Parliament is one of the main law-making institutions of the EU, along with the Council of the EU. It has three main roles: together with the Council, debating and passing European laws; scrutinizing EU institutions to make sure they are working democratically; and with the Council, debating and adopting the EU’s budget. [1] After the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009, the European Parliament has become increasingly powerful. And with the Lisbon Treaty, national parliaments acquired more say over EU laws. But the European Union has failed to fulfill its functions to ensure the democratic legitimacy of the EU, in other words, the EP fails to represent its electorate.

There exist such variation of legitimacy as political legitimacy, which generally emphasizes the popular justification of the right of institutions to govern, maintain authority and exercise political power within the state.[2] Following this, legitimacy can be described as an instrument of social consent that brings power into existence within the political structure of a state. [3] Speaking broadly, the state-institution is a theoretical model of legitimacy, thus the identification of the degree of legitimacy of an institution, allows us to analyze the legitimacy of the entire state.

According to Beetham & Lord there are two fundamental approaches to legitimacy identification: direct and indirect legitimacy. The direct legitimacy or known as ‘legitimacy by the people’, lies on the degree of appreciation of the EU by the European public, in which the electorate is able to choose by voting.[4] This type of legitimacy proposes as a solution for inefficiency of legitimacy, two institutional models: parliamentarian and presidential.

In a multi-national EU, the presidential model is less likely to be developed. In its turn the parliamentarian model gives the growing importance of the European Parliament as the only political body in the EU system which is directly-elected. Concerning this, Berthold Rittberger in his work ‘Debating the democratic legitimacy of the EU’ points out that parliamentarisation is an important remedy to the lack of EU legitimacy because parliaments provide the linkage between civil society and government. [5]

Another approach, the indirect legitimacy proposes to view the EU legitimacy as domestically authorized by the authority of member states rather than European citizenry.[6] A logical equilibrium between these two approaches to the problem of legitimization of the EU is a ‘double-sided’ approach, which coexists successfully in Germany. But the main drawback is the identification of the European nation or European demos.

Its very noticeable that during the period from 1992 to 1995 the percent of the EU citizens who identified themselves as nationals of their member states and European was very high, more than 40%. [7] However, since 1996 the situation has changed with shifting of European public towards the nationality only, which creates the deficit of democracy in the European Union.

The concept of legitimacy, at the level of the EU is illustrated with the EU Parliament, therefore the legitimacy can be defined as the recognition of political system by the citizens. [8] However, the experience has shown that the European Parliament doesn’t guarantee the EU’s democratic legitimacy. First of all, it has failed to convince voters as the turnout in EP elections has fallen from 46% in 2004 to 43% in 2009.[9]

Secondly, the European Parliament couldn’t mobilise voters around issues handled by the EU and so the people who vote do it on national political issues over which the EU exercise little control. Another drawback is voter’s unawareness of the existence of political groups in the Parliament that shows a lack of a clear democratic mandate and the problematic nature of the Parliament. In 2014, overall, the EU average turnout has grown by only 0.09%.[10]

One of explanations why EP elections fail to attract the same degree of interest as national ones is that they don’t determine the composition of government and that means their political outcome is less visible, thus there is no obvious political direction of Europe for European electors. [11] And moreover, such spheres as health care, law, pensions, social security and taxation, which are crucial for the people, are controlled by national governments and don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the EU.

The issues, which fall under the competence of EU such as monetary policy, single market and competition, simply inspire voter’s apathy. Of course above structural problems, the behavior of the EP undermines it as a body or institution, which is not concentrated on people of Europe. Member of the Parliament are focused on driving European integration and therefore increase their own power and thus how policy effectiveness suffer.

La raison d’etre or the reason for existence of the EP is to increase the EU powers. For instance, in the case of the 2011 EU budget, the EP parliament pushed for more spending than most national governments want. [12]

The problem of EP legitimacy can be seen in the degree of insufficient representation and effectiveness of institution. EP still doesn’t posses the power to create laws, but Amsterdam Treaty gives the EP power to block any unpleasant legislation, thus the EP became more powerful than it was in 1994. [13] So we cant agree with statements that the EP lost its power. Additionally, the EP often seems out of step with its electorate, what was clearly noted in the aftermath of the French and Dutch ‘No’ votes to the European constitution in 2005.

It was noted that the Parliament, including French and Dutch members, voted to approve the EU constitution, only to find that the voters seemed to disagree. [14] The German constitutional court ruling on the Lisbon treaty of 30th June 2009 was an important milestone in the debates of the democratic failings of the EP. It argued and made clear that the EP is not a body of representation of a sovereign European people. [15] Its argumentation was based on the view that, the number of seats per country doesn’t match populations, as smaller countries have more seats, so the EP’s make-up is not democratic.

Exists one argument that the EP is badly represented, and in institution itself both political and social essences of representation are presented not adequately. It’s already clear that political representation is evaluated through the activities of the members of the Parliament.

Social representation is weak in the EP and fails to be a fully legitimate, therefore the weakness of both essences of representation are cause by the absence of a common electoral system at the level of the EU. [16] Such universal electoral system would give a clear view to the European public on how are elected the members of the parliament and how they govern, which will lead to increase in knowledge of internal structure of the EP and its external effectiveness. Thus a public would be able to evaluate the legislative powers.



 

[1]How the EU works. European Parliament. http://europa.eu/about-eu/institutions-bodies/european-parliament/index_en.htm

[2] Andrei M.Muntean. The European Parliament’s Political Legitimacy and the Commission’s ‘Misleading Management’: Towards a “parliamentarian”EU? Vol.4 (2000) num. 5. Page 1http://eiop.or.at/eiop/pdf/2000-005.pdf

[3] ibid

[4] Ibid page 2

[5] Beate Kohler-Koch, Berthold Rittberger. Debating the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. Rowman&Littlefield ed. 2007 pge 104. http://books.google.lv/books?id=wgHfdYqoHy4C&pg=PA105&dq=european+parliament+lack+legitimacy&hl=lv&sa=X&ei=FNwnVMPlGMfMyAO1vILYBw&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=european%20parliament%20lack%20legitimacy&f=false

[6] Andrei M.Muntean. The European Parliament’s Political Legitimacy and the Commission’s ‘Misleading Management’: Towards a “parliamentarian”EU? Vol.4 (2000) num. 5. Page 2 http://eiop.or.at/eiop/pdf/2000-005.pdf

[7] Ibid page 3

[8]The problem of ‘democratic deficit’ in the European union. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. Vil.1 No. 5; May 2011. Page 248. http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol._1_No._5%3B_May_2011/27.pdf

[9] Anand Menon and John Peet. Beyond the European Parliament: Rethinking the EU’s legitimacy. Centre for European Reform. December 2010. Page 3 http://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2011/essay_parliament_peet_menon_dec10-179.pdf

[10] The European Politics Blog. The 2014 European elections turout: achievement or failure? http://www.euspeak.eu/the-2014-european-elections-turnout-achievement-or-failure/

[11] Anand Menon and John Peet. Beyond the European Parliament: Rethinking the EU’s legitimacy. Centre for European Reform. December 2010. Page 4 http://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2011/essay_parliament_peet_menon_dec10-179.pdf

[12] Ibid page 5

[13] Andrei M.Muntean. The European Parliament’s Political Legitimacy and the Commission’s ‘Misleading Management’: Towards a “parliamentarian”EU? Vol.4 (2000) num. 5. Page 5 http://eiop.or.at/eiop/pdf/2000-005.pdf

[14] Charlemangne. ‘Those Ozymandian moments”, the Econmist, June 11th 2005. http://www.economist.com/node/4055221

[15] Anand Menon and John Peet. Beyond the European Parliament: Rethinking the EU’s legitimacy. Centre for European Reform. December 2010. Page 6 http://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2011/essay_parliament_peet_menon_dec10-179.pdf

[16]Andrei M.Muntean. The European Parliament’s Political Legitimacy and the Commission’s ‘Misleading Management’: Towards a “parliamentarian”EU? Vol.4 (2000) num. 5. Page 8 http://eiop.or.at/eiop/pdf/2000-005.pdf

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