Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union

Authors


Andrew Moravcsik Center for European Studies Harvard University 27 Kirkland Street Cambridge MA 02138, USA Tel: 00 1 617 495 4303 Fax: 00 1617 495 8509moravcs@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

Concern about the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’ is misplaced. Judged against existing advanced industrial democracies, rather than an ideal plebiscitary or parliamentary democracy, the EU is legitimate. Its institutions are tightly constrained by constitutional checks and balances: narrow mandates, fiscal limits, super–majoritarian and concurrent voting requirements and separation of powers. The EU’s appearance of exceptional insulation reflects the subset of functions it performs — central banking, constitutional adjudication, civil prosecution, economic diplomacy and technical administration. These are matters of low electoral salience commonly delegated in national systems, for normatively justifiable reasons. On balance, the EU redresses rather than creates biases in political representation, deliberation and output.

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