Still Democratic in Times of Crisis?

John Erik Fossum and Hans-Jörg Trenz have both contributed with chapters in the volume Political Representation in the European Union: Still Democratic in Times of Crisis?, edited by Sandra Kröger.

The book Political Representation in the European Union: Still democratic in times of crisis? is edited by Sandra Kröger, and appeared on Routledge in 2014.

About the book

In recent years the financial and economic crisis of 2008–9 has progressed into an equally important political and democratic crisis of the EU. These troubled times have set the framework to re-assess a number of important questions in regard to representative democracy in the EU, such as the normative foundation of political representation, the institutional relationship between representatives and represented, the link between democracy and representation and new arenas and actors.

This book examines the diverse avenues through which different sorts of actors have expressed their voices during the Euro crisis and how their various interests are translated into the decision-making process. It offers a state-of- the-art assessment of what political representation means in this context as well as a contribution to the ‘representative turn’ in democratic theory. The authors address three key themes: (1) the main actors and channels of political representation in the EU; (2) interlocking levels of representation in the EU and the way in which national and supranational representation works; and (3) how the European institutional system represents EU citizens through law and administration.

The structure of EU representation and the crisis

John Erik Fossum in Chapter 3 addresses the European Parliament in particular, but also the structure of electoral representation in the EU more generally, and how it has been affected by the current crisis. Fossum lays out the in-built tension in the EU's system of representation between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. Because of this unique construction, he argues in favour of different standards for representation for the EU than those we know from the domestic sphere and holds that the process of continued constituency-building and constitutionalisation holds both risks - such as manipulation and blame-shifting - and opportunities - such as increased deliberative spaces. He concludes that whilst the crisis seems to render inter-parliamentary coordination more relevant, at the same time it 'appears to have greatly weakened parliaments in relation to executives and therefore also weakened 'and perhaps even undercut the process of EU democratisation'. In contrast, experts and intergovernmentalism have been strengthened, and the overall complexity of political representation has been increased through even greater differentiation, which is why one of the main challenges now would be to pay 'systematic attention to the democratic implications of increased differentiation'.

Mediated representative politics

Hans-Jörg Trenz in Chapter 10 is interested in the role the public, or the 'audience', plays in political representation in the EU. Indeed, he perceives of political representation 'as a dynamic communicative process that takes place in the public sphere, filtered and shaped by the media environment', and must therefore be studied in a systemic way. As as consequence, Trenz proposes to focus on 'mass media as the stage of representative politics', and thereby to 'contribute to the understanding of the "making of" political representation'. So far, EU affairs were of low public salience and attracted little public attention. Indeed, the trouble with the EU, according to Trenz, is not so much its institutions and their interplay, but rather the lack of communicative spaces and publicity for and of its activities. Has the current crisis changed this? It does not seem so. On the contrary, the characteristic features of audience democracy 'seem to constrain rather than to enhance the legitimacy of the EU', not least because 'media representations of the crisis are linked to frequent disinformation, a preference of emotional over factual content, unequal chances of political representatives to access the media sphere and an inbuilt nationalism of media frames and interpretations'. As a result, the politicization of EU affairs that did take place in the context of the crisis has 'rather endorsed the renationalization of EU representative politics and strengthened those actors who oppose delegated authority to the EU'.

Full info

John Erik Fossum
'The Structure of EU-representation and the Crisis'

Hans-Jörg Trenz
'Mediated Representative Politics: The Euro-crisis and the Politicization of the EU'

In: Political Representation in the European Union: Still Democratic in Times of Crisis?
Sandra Kröger (ed.)

Routledge, 2014
ISBN 978-0-415-83514-5

 

 

Published June 10, 2014 1:53 PM - Last modified June 25, 2014 3:14 PM