Europe in Search of its Legitimacy - Assessing Strategies of Legitimation

This paper discusses different strategies for mending the legitimacy deficit of the EU; it is argued here that legitimacy could be attained by way of three different paths, each pertaining to a a special vision of what the EU is and should be.

ARENA Working Paper 38/2002 (pdf)

Erik Oddvar Eriksen and John Erik Fossum

How can the EU rectify its legitimacy deficit? On the basis of three logics of political integration we identify explicit strategies for how the legitimacy deficit of the EU can be remedied. The first strategy amounts to a scaling down of the ambitions of the polity-makers in the EU. If pursued to the full, the EU would end up as a problem-solving or special purpose organisation. Here the EU’s own legitimacy is held to be dependent on its performance and on the legitimacy of the Member States. The second strategy emphasises the need to deepen the collective self-understanding of Europeans. Consistent pursuit of this would make the EU a value-based community in a cultural sense. In this case legitimacy derives from a shared cultural identity. These two modes of legitimation figure strongly in the debate on and in aspects of the EU, but both have become problematic. The third strategy concentrates on the need to readjust and heighten the ambitions of the polity-makers so as to make the EU into a federal multicultural union founded on basic rights and democratic decision-making procedures. This latter strategy sees legitimacy as relying on a set of constitutional and communicative presuppositions, which ensure public deliberation. How robust is such an alternative and how salient is it, as opposed to the other two strategies, in the process of integration?

Tags: deliberative democracy, legitimacy, democracy, ideas, polity building
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM