A Democratic Audit of the European Union

Christopher Lord (Photo: UiO)

There is much debate on whether the European Union suffers from a democratic deficit. The aim of this website is to provoke discussion about indicators and data sources which might be used to assess how democratic the European Union is. The data on this website will be further expanded and updated over the next few months.


The concept of democratic auditing – of which the European Union Democratic Audit is a kind of spiritual descendant – was first developed by David Beetham and Stuart Weir. For further information, consult the web-site of the original Democratic Audit.

The European Union Democratic Audit has, however, developed its own set of democratic indicators. An accompanying paper, published as a RECON Online Working Paper in 2008, explains the indicators, justifies their selection and compares them with indicators of democracy used in other studies. See more under analytical framework.

RECON democracy models

The European Union Democratic Audit is financed by the RECON project. RECON (Reconstituting Democracy in Europe) is a five-year project funded by the European Commision’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research. One strength of the RECON project is that it reminds us that there is more than one way of making the European Union democratic. Simplifying greatly, RECON assumes three models of a democratic European Union:

RECON Model 1 (Delegated democracy) assumes democratic control of the Union through the democratic institutions of each member state.  

RECON Model 2 (Federal democracy) assumes ‘a democratic constitutional state, based on direct legitimation’ at the Union level.

RECON Model 3 (Cosmopolitan democracy) assumes that the Union can be seen as both a post-state and a post-national democracy; that it can be democratic without itself being a state (in contrast to model 2) or without depending on the democratic institutions of its member states (in contrast to model 3), and without a thick sense of political community that sharply distinguishes insiders from outsides (Eriksen, E. O. and Fossum, J. E. (2007) 'Europe in transformation: How to reconstitute democracy', RECON Online Working Paper 2007/01, Oslo: ARENA, pp. 15-26).

Each of these models has very different implications for how the European Union would satisfy the democratic indicators. Table A makes a tentative attempt to identify those differences (see also analytical framework). 

How to measure democracy?

Specifying indicators is, however, only the first step. The next step is to find data that will allow us to reach some judgement of how the EU performs against each of the indicators. Here we need to be modest in our expectations. It is most unlikely that we will be able to find all the data we need to make a full evaluation of how democratic the European Union is against each of the indicators and each of the variants on the indicators suggested by each of the models. It is more likely that we will have to settle for making the best possible use of the limited and flawed data available. This site seeks to provoke discussion on how to do precisely that.