Democratic Deficit Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:15
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There is no hard and fast rule or a concrete definition of what is democratic deficit all about. Even Follesdal & Hix (2005) admits to the fact that there is no single definition of the democratic deficit this is due to the varied scholars and commentators nationality, intellectual positions and preferred solutions on the subject matter. For Follesdal & Hix (2005, 4-6) the concept of democratic deficit could be defined using the five major claims. The first and foremost claim hinges on the European integration resulting to an increase in executive power and a decrease in national parliamentary control.

At an individual European states level, the central structure of representative government in all EU Member States is that the government is accountable to the voters via the parliament. Though these parliaments have few powers on legislative amendment, the executive is accountable to the parliament which can remove and replace cabinet ministers through parliament scrutiny of the behaviors of government ministers. On the EU side, the structure provides that the policy-making is performed by the executive actors namely: national ministers in the Council, and government appointees in the Commission.

Though structurally sound, the problem lies on the fact that these executive agents of individual sovereign states comprising the EU are beyond the control of the national parliaments. These agents when voting at their respective committees or council at the European level are much more isolated from the scrutiny and control of their respective national parliament compared to the national cabinet ministers or bureaucrats in the domestic policy-making process. Thus, state agents can virtually isolate their respective parliaments or home states when making decisions in Brussels.

It was in this regard that the integration has decreased the national parliaments power and an increase in the power of executives (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, 4-6). In relation to the first claim, the second claim points to the fact that the European Parliament, in regard to the issue of democratic deficit, is too weak. In the 1980s, the line of thinking of some researchers that there was a direct trade-off between the powers of the European Parliament and the powers of national parliaments, where any increase in the powers of the European Parliament would mean a concomitant decrease in the powers of national parliaments.

This was changed in the 1990s where political scientist opined that European integration resulted to decline in the power of parliamentary institutions at the domestic level relative to executive institutions. To solve the dilemma, researches in this area proffered to an increase of European Parliaments power relative to the governments in the Council and the Commission. Though reforms were initiated along this line, the European Parliament is weak compared to the governments in the Council.

Even if there is already an equalization of powers between the European Parliament and the Council under the co-decision procedure, a majority of EU legislation is still passed under the consultation procedure, where the Parliament only has a limited power of delay. Finally, the fact remains that the EUs Parliament never elected the EUs Executive (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, 4-6). The third claim is anchored on the fact that there was no European election to speak of in spite of European Parliaments growing power.

EU citizens elect their governments, who sit in the Council and nominate Commissioners to the European Parliament. The election at EUs level is not a referendum of personalities or issues that will set the EUs agenda for the next term or session, as the case maybe. In the same vein, the national election in the respective members states is confined to the domestic agenda and the opposing parties collude to keep EUs issue of the domestic agenda. Now, because of these developments the citizens in their respective countries, as a protest and exasperation of the political dynamics, shun from participating in European elections.

For Follesdal & Hix (2005) the absence of a European element in national and European elections means that EU citizens preferences on issues on the EU policy agenda at best only have an indirect influence on EU policy outcomes. In comparison, if the EU were a system with a genuine electoral contest to determine the make-up of government at the European level, the outcome of this election would have a direct influence on what EU leaders do, and whether they can continue to do these things or are forced to change the direction of policy (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, 4-6).

The fourth claim provides that even if EU itself increased its Parliaments power in order to attain genuine European elections; another problem will sprout because of its image problem that attached to it since the early 80s and that is the institution is too distant from voters. There is an institutional and a psychological version of this claim. Psychologically, the EU is too different from the domestic democratic institutions that citizens are used to. As a result, citizens cannot understand the EU, and so will never be able to assess and regard it as a democratic system writ large, nor to identify with it.

The example of which is the case of the Commission which is neither a government nor a bureaucracy and part legislature and executive. And when acting as a legislature makes most of its decisions in secret, thus lack transparency, accountability and predictability on issue that affects the European citizens across the European continental divide. On the part of the European Parliament, the institution is not a deliberative assembly due to the inherent limitations it possessed such as multi-lingual nature of debates in committees and the lack of common political backdrop culture in the plenary.

And, the policy process is fundamentally technocratic rather than political (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, 4-6). The last claim is the presence of the policy drift from voters ideal policy preferences brought about by the European integration. As stated in the previous discussion, due to the policy changes EU absence the support of its citizens and of the Member States, the government sponsored policy changes at the European level could not be fully implemented at the domestic level due to constraints such as the lack of support by the local parliaments, courts and dynamic interest groups.

The policy outcomes include a neo-liberal regulatory framework for the single market, a monetarist framework for EMU and massive subsidies to farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy. Because the policy outcomes of the EU decision-making process are usually to the right of domestic policy status quos, this policy drift critique is usually developed by social democratic scholars. Follesdal and Hix added that a variant of this social democratic critique focuses on the role of private interests in EU decision-making.

Due to the European Parliaments weak character as an institution in EU governance, there is no competition between the democratic party politics and the interest groups over the EU policy-making process. Thus there is a greater incentive for business and multinational firms to organize at the European level than diffuse their interests in consumer groups or trade unions, and the EU policy process is pluralist rather than corporatist. These features skew EU policy outcomes more towards the interests of the owners of capital than is the case for policy compromises at the domestic level in Europe (Follesdal & Hix, 2005, 4-6).

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