RECON Online Working Paper 2008/08

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The EU Constitutional Process

A Failure of Political Representation?

Ben Crum (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

 

Abstract

This paper proposes to assess the representative quality of European Union decision-making by way of a micro-approach which traces the effectiveness of the mechanisms of representation that connect the European peoples to the decision-making process. In particular, it proposes to distinguish systematically between ‘upstream’ controls that delimit the mandate of political representatives and ‘downstream’ controls that allow political representatives to justify their decisions through deliberation. This approach is applied to the various phases of the making of the EU Constitutional Treaty and its dramatic failure due to the negative referendum verdicts in France and the Netherlands. Thus it is demonstrated that the EU Constitutional process has suffered from a lack of mechanisms for aligning politicians with public opinion. In particular, ‘upstream’ controls fell short in the very conception of the process in the 2001 Laeken Declaration and in the negotiations in the Intergovernmental Conference. On the other hand, ‘downstream’ controls remained under-activated in the European Convention and came too late in the ratification phase. Thus the Laeken process emerges as a process involving drifting political elites that, once brought face to face with their democratic principals again, failed to convincingly justify their actions. As the superimposition of the various phases had the overall effect of blurring all lines of political control and accountability over the process, it was eventually to the people to pull the emergency brake to prevent its outcome from taking effect.


Keywords

Deliberative Democracy – European Convention – European Council – Intergovernmental Conferences – Legitimacy – Political Representation


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