Can European Integration be Democratic? Revisiting the dilemmas of European integration theories after the 2014 European elections odd turnout

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Can European Integration be democratic? Revisiting the dilemmas of European Integration Theories after the 2014 European Elections’ odd turnout The consensus around the European integration process seems to have reached a new low as the more recent elections for the Parliament show by the increase of the percentage of euroceptics, nationalist and extreme-right European MPs. The perplexity manifested by many European and national elites about the results depict a paradox that sits at the heart of the European integration process: while the high number of radical candidates chosen by national electorates appears to constitute a call for more democracy at the transnational level of European institutions, the scrutiny led by a Lisbon-Treaty-empowered European Parliament over the Commission is now to be undertaken by a great number of anti-european MPs. This means that the traditionally pro-european institution within the EU is increasingly becoming skeptical about the very existence of the Union, let alone of its capacity to govern Europe democratically. While the dominant narrative about the development of the European integration – both in terms of its deepening and in terms of the enlargement – has been that of a direct overlap between ‘democratization’ and ‘federalization’, the scenario laid out above seems to suggest that as the central pro-federal institutions reinforce their power – namely the Parliament, the Commission and the ECB – their supposed power to instill democracy in the region vis-à-vis national states is being increasingly compromised as it becomes more and more liable to the influence of the most powerful states. On the other hand, the dominant expectations about the possibility that the European Council might actually become more and more antidemocratic due to the bargaining power of some countries are being radically inverted, which means that intergovernmentalism might yet again claim a role as the democratizing force par excellence within the European inter-institutional arrangement. Given this puzzle, this paper constitutes an attempt to anticipate the future direction of the debate between federalists and intergovernmentalists as to the following question: can a deeper democratization of the European process actually dispense with the intergovernmental negotiations that take place at a Germany-dominated IGCs? Or is the Council reformable in a way that can improve the representation of the national states at the negotiations? My main aim will be to explore the two hypothesis that stem from these two questions. Can the project of an European Union become more sustainable precisely to the extent that it derives its legitimacy and its power from the priority attributed of the relations between States – hence returning to an intergovernmental paradigm? Or will the federalist approach continue to push for a democratizing strategy that privileges the organ that might one day become, in one stroke, ‘the most democratic anti-european’ organ of the EU? In order to explore these hypotheses, I will revisit the main European integration theories – namely neofunctionalism and liberal internationalism – paying particular attention to their understanding of the nexus between regional integration and transnational democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventConferência Internacional "Plunging Into Turmoil: Social Sciences and the Crisis" - Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 16 Oct 201417 Oct 2014


ConferenceConferência Internacional "Plunging Into Turmoil: Social Sciences and the Crisis"


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