N°9 – Democracy: Taking the Next Turn

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The upcoming European elections are being awaited in Brussels with very mixed emotions. On one hand, there is a fear that the current ways of dealing with the impacts of the global crisis has made the European Union appear in the public opinion as synonymous to a technocratic tool for management of austerity measures. Imposed by a conservative majority, these policies further deteriorate not only the values on which the integration process was built, such as solidarity, but also destroys the confidence that a united Europe can ever again deliver on the pledges of peace, prosperity and progress – for which it was established. On the other hand, there is hope that the elections of 2014 will be seen by voters as a pan-European referendum. Foremost the progressives anticipate, that it could be a turning point in which citizens from across the continent would reiterate, that despite the current developments, they still believe in the European project and demand a profound change of its direction – shifting to policies leading to a real Social Europe.

The hope is furthermore anchored in certain phenomena that have recently been observed on both the European and national levels. First of all, the issue of “Europe” has recently entered more in the political discourses of national campaigns, for example, this year during the elections in France and the Netherlands. The fact that the EU and its decisions affect everyday lives of all and are in fact not at all foreign, but are considered more and more as domestic issues. This will most likely transform the European elections from what is now a “2nd order vote” – and hence will require a different approach from the political families. It is not an unaware citizen that they need to educate to be able to vote – it is an ambivalent disenchanted citizen that they need to convince to attract to cast the vote. The Lisbon Treaty and its provisions offer a number of possibilities to do so, if only European political families prove themselves keen to further politicise the question of Europe’s future and enter into a new framework of transnational intra-partisan competition.

Secondly, the ongoing discussion on the institutional architecture of the European Union has highlighted certain dilemmas. Next to traditional criticism on insufficient democratic legitimacy and inadequate fulfilment of the principle of democratic representation by different EU institutions, there are new issues approaching. Among this comes about the question of who is leading the EU project, which is being more and more claimed by singular larger states operating through in an intergovernmental way. Derivative from that is a matter of enhanced cooperation, which gives a space for deliberation on creating eventually new institutions for euro-zone only. Such an approach would not only induce further multi-speeding in Europe, but potentially will fragment the historical integration based on the backbone of economic governance.

This Queries volume looks at the above mentioned questions with an ambition to provide stronger rooting to the progressive families’ hopes towards 2014. The angle taken is one that builds on the research of European democracy, bringing the debate to a new level. Such terms as: governance, legitimacy and deliberative process shall gain adequately modern understanding, and hence the title of the issue. It is composed of 4 Chapters and made of 12 articles, which were written by European, American and Asian authors – and all make a pledge for the progressives to break the fatalistic political determinism and use 2014 in order to offer a feasible, distinctive political alternative.

Ania SKRZYPEK, FEPS Senior Research Fellow – Managing Editor of “Queries”

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