By European Parliament from EU - Outside the European Parliament in Brussels, CC BY 2.0,

Guest blog by Jaap Hoeksma, Author of European Democracy

The process of cooperation in Europe, which started in the aftermath of World War II, has resulted in the emergence of an unprecedented political construction on the old continent. Initially, the debate about the nature of the European Communities and their successor the European Union, was dominated by the dilemma as to whether the integration should lead to the creation of a federal state, to be described as the United States of Europe, or to the establishment of a Europe of Nation-States, proudly portrayed by President de Gaulle as ‘l’Europe des Patries.[1] After decades of deadlock, the 2007 Lisbon Treaty overcame the conceptual stalemate by constructing the EU as a democracy without turning the Union into a state.

Theory of Democratic Integration

The theory of democratic integration, which has been conceived in the wake of this treaty, suggests that the EU is evolving from an organisation of democratic states to a European democracy.[2] This evolution is symbolised by the phrase ‘ever closer union’. The desire to lay the foundations for an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe was expressed in the 1957 Treaty of Rome and has since become the keyword of European integration. Although the phrase has been regarded in the past as paving the way for a federal state, the theory of democratic integration holds that it may be interpreted more appropriately as a semantic way towards the construction of a European democracy. To capture this development in one line: out of the desire to prevent the renewed outbreak of war a new kind of democracy has arisen in Europe.

Living Democracy

So, in the case of the EU reality precedes theory. The European Union had established itself by virtue of the Lisbon Treaty as a European democracy before it could be recognised and identified as such by philosophers of law and political scientists.[3] Despite the crises, which have been battering the EU since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and notwithstanding the populist calls for the dissolution of the EU, the citizens of the Union have used the elections for the European Parliament to confirm their confidence in its democratic structures. Both the voter turnout of 51% and the rejection of the populist-nationalist propositions indicate that European democracy has come of age. In short, the 2019 EP-elections have turned the EU into a living democracy.

[1] The most balanced account of this battle is provided by: Kapteyn and VerLoren van Themaat, The Law of the European Union and the European Communities, Alphen aan den Rijn 2008

[2] Hoeksma, J., European Democracy, Oisterwijk 2019

[3] Bogdandy, A. von, The European Lesson for International Democracy: The Signifance of Articles 9 – 12 EU Treaty for International Organisations, in: The European Journal of International Law, Vol 23, no 2

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