The EU’s fledgling society: From deafening silence to critical voice in European constitution making

What are the merits of the EU's attempts to forge a constituency? This paper sheds light on the development of a European public sphere by presenting a framework where constituency and polity building are seen to interact, tangibly illustrated in the constitution process.

ARENA Working Paper 19/2005 (pdf)

John Erik Fossum and Hans-Jörg Trenz

The European Union is presently at a major crossroads. The Laeken process which launched the EU onto an explicit constitution-making process, has ground to a halt after the negative referendum results in France and the Netherlands. The European Council at its 16-17 June 2005 meeting decided to postpone the ratification process (by then 10 states had ratified and 2 had rejected) and instead issue a period of reflection. These events represent a significant re-politicization of the European integration process. From a research perspective they underline the need to study the dynamic interrelation between the emerging European polity and its social constituency. In this article we provide an analytical model of EU-constitutionalisation in terms of polity building and constituency building, a model that links institutional performance back to public voice and mobilisation. Our focus on determining the character of the EU’s emerging social constituency goes beyond the contentious politics approach because it does not only focus on public voice but also provides a research framework for properly understanding the role of public silence.
In empirical terms, this implies looking at the structure of public communication and claims-making in the EU and in the Member States. The European public sphere in relation to constitution making is then our object of analysis. More specifically, we present a research framework that will help us to shed light on the character of the EU’s social constituency, as it emerges in dynamic interaction with the process of polity formation.

A later version of this article has been published in Journal of Civil Society Vol.2, No.1, pp.57-77

Tags: constitution building, deliberative democracy, legitimacy, polity building, Constitution for Europe
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM