· The notion of ‘democracy’ indicates theinvolvement of the citizens in political decision-making. · In practice, this is normally obtained throughgeneral elections, whereby all citizens are entitled to elect representativesto make decisions on their behalf in the national parliament. · Another crucial feature of democracy is that thecitizens are able to hold their representatives to account. Usually this isalso through elections, when the citizens reflect on the choices that have beenmade by their representatives and decide whether to re-elect them or not. · Governments are always held to account tonational parliaments, so the citizens can motivate their representatives to evaluateany decisions that have been enforced by the government that they do notapprove of. The Debate about Democracy in the EU · The EU has an impact on the everyday lives ofall of its citizens. Various national statutes originate in the EU, and the rangeof areas in which the EU can enforce statutes is already large and on the rise. · Furthermore, statutes made by the EU is far moresovereign than national laws.
Due to this, it is imperative that EU citizensare included when it comes to the decision-making process and that the EU isdemocratic. How the EU is democratic? · The most obvious point to prove that the EU isdemocratic is that the European Parliament (EP) is composed of MEPs who aredirectly elected by the EU citizens. · Since 1979, every 5 year’s elections are takenplace in which EU citizens are able to elect MEPs to represent their views inthe EU. · A system of proportionalrepresentation is used to elect MEPs in all member states. The UK currentlyhas 72 MEPs. · Having the ability to choose MEPs also suggeststhat they are accountable to the people and citizens have the right not tore-elect them if they are dissatisfied with their performance. · Another alternative in which the needs and wantsof the citizens are represented in the EU is through the European Council andthe Council of the European Union. · Both of these institutions consist of peoplefrom the national governments of the member states.
· As most national governments are electeddirectly by the people (the President ofFrance is directly elected) or indirectly (the UK government is formed from the political party that wins themajority of the seats in a general election), they are indirectlyrepresenting their citizens at the EU level. · By voting to modify the national government,citizens are also entitled to changing the way their views are represented inthe EU, and therefore, these institutions are also indirectly accountable toEuropean citizens. · The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 has a sectiondedicating to the improvement of democracy in the EU – Title II Provisions on Democratic Principles. It contains theintroduction of a process called the ‘CitizensInitiative’ whereby all of the citizens within the EU can invite EuropeanCommissions to introduce a piece of legislation.
At least 1 million citizensfrom a majority of the member states need to sign an initiative for it to beeven considered by the European Commission. Hence, through this process, can citizensbecome directly included with decision-making at the EU level. · Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty has also improvedthe powers of the European Parliament, so that the elected representatives ofthe citizens can share a greater voice in decision-making, and amplified therole of national parliaments in law-making. National parliaments now have theirpowers strengthened to consider and challenge any EU statutes that theyconsider to be made at a national rather than an EU level: thus, imposing the subsidiarity principle which entitlesthat decisions should be enforced at the lowest level and close to the citizensas achievable. Where the EU fails to be Democratic · This concept that the EU is diagnosed from a democratic deficit is extensivelyadvocated within academic circles. · One cause of this is that the EU seems to be toodistant from its citizens. It is widely accepted that it is too complicated forthe citizens to be efficiently involved in its decision-making and a lack oftransparency and education stops them from gaining knowledge on the nature ofthe EU and how they can make a difference within the EU.
Despite the LisbonTreaty improving the transparency, the introduction of the Citizens’ Initiativeis not projected to be efficient enough to improve the relationship between theEU and its citizens, as it is very doubtful that numerous of citizens will beaware of the opportunities that is available to them. · Secondly, the powers of the EP, the onlydirectly elected EU institution, are weaker than any other institutions. The EPcannot put forward legislation and only has the power to propose amendments tostatutes. Elections for the EP also suffer from a low turnout (in the UK only34.7% of people voted in the 2009 EP election), a wide range of citizens arenot taking up the opportunity to influence the decision-making process.
Furthermore, those who do vote normally vote based on their opinions onnational issues rather than European issues, due to a sense of feeling distantfrom the mechanisms of the EU. · Thirdly, the European Commission is a completelyappointed institution, not democratically elected, and it has the control ofenforcing laws: there is no opposition over who has political authority andsets the outline at the European level. EU citizens do not receive a choiceover who is involved of this powerful body, and the Commission is only held toaccount through the European Parliament.
In addition, individual Commissionerswho are performing poorly cannot be removed from their position. The Commissionlacks legitimacy: it has too much power for an institution that is not evendemocratically representative of the EU citizens or accountable to them.