Chapter 12 Reflecting on the EU as a political system

  • Developments in the EU’s institutional framework and policy scope have resulted from both internal and external sources.
  • The internal sources of developments have come from attempts by the EU institutions to increase their remit and authority. It has rested crucially on the acquiescence of member state governments.
  • The external sources of developments have come from crises facing the EU and its member states. The initiative in responding to these crises has normally been taken by member state governments and the European Council, but in the longer run these responses have often led to a strengthening of the EU’s institutional framework.
  • It is important to keep in mind that, besides ‘large events’, the EU is also about ‘daily politics’. Developments in this domain are less visible but highly consequential for the course of European integration. In comparison with large events, they are often more gradual.
  • Critics have accused the EU of suffering from a ‘democratic deficit’. This assessment depends on two separate arguments: that the EU should be democratic and that the EU in fact is not
  • The answer to the question whether the EU should be democratic depends on one’s perspective on the tasks of the EU: does it execute a number of relatively technical and clearly predefined tasks or does it make policies that imply trade-offs between important values?
  • The answer to the question whether the EU is in fact democratic depends on one’s assessment of the democratic credentials of both institutions and practices in the EU.
  • In comparison with other political systems, the EU shows characteristics of both a state and an international organization. It is this ambiguity that makes the EU unique.

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Cambridge University Press