Limits of European Integration?
Legitimacy and Democracy
'The EU as a scapegoat is hardly a new concept; the problem lies in the fact that the EU has moved into an ever-wider range of policy areas, including, with Maastricht, areas previously very closely identified with the prerogative of the nation state' . The traditional concept of legitimacy cannot be fully applied to the institutions of the EU simply because a 'single European nation', or European demos in its traditional sense does not exist as such and is not likely to appear within foreseeable future. 'The integration is not about creating a European nation or people, but about the ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe' . A parliament is a traditionally democratic institution not because 'it provides a mechanism for representation and majority voting, but because it represents ... the nation, the demos from which it derives its authority and legitimacy of its decisions' . If we follow the logic of this no-demos clause, the European Parliament cannot be legitimate and democratic by definition, and, therefore, the increase of powers of the EP at the expense of the Council (the voice of the Member States) is a step in the wrong direction. I cannot agree to this. The demos is traditionally seen though the ethno-cultural prism. Can't we imagine a 'polity whose demos is defined, accepted and understood in civic, non-ethno-cultural terms, and would have legitimate rule-making democratic authority an that basis' ? Can't we separate nationality from citizenship? Can't people unite on the basis of shared values, a shared understanding of rights and duties, and shared rational, intellectual culture which transcends ethno-national differences? This appears to be the concept of introducing EU citizenship. According to this viewpoint (which is I personally share, too), the directly elected European Parliament is a democratic and legitimate institution for EU citizens, and therefore its powers must be increased. But the problem lies in misunderstanding. During the Danish referendum for the ratification of Maastricht, some Danes feared that when acquiring EU citizenship they were losing their national citizenship. Indeed, '...there was a failure to put across the idea that citizenship of the Union is not intended to replace the national citizenship but actually to complement it' . In some cases the perception was the opposite. Thus, the European Union should be brought closer to its citizens which will allow the disputes on legitimacy to be resolved in future. To do this, the following issues must be addressed.
Transparency of the legislative process
Over twenty separate complex systems are now used to adopt legislation in the EU, and there is a lack of logic in the choice of the various procedures. 'Although willing to share sovereignty, governments retain as much political control as possible.' Hence the complexity of institutional structure and number of decision-making procedures which sometimes 'render the Union's modus operandi extremely obscure' . Simplification is, therefore, considered necessary and the pressure is growing to reduce these procedures to three. The tendency is to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, and to extending co-decision powers of the European Parliament which, in turn, will increase the legitimacy of the latter. Maintaining unanimity requirement could, indeed, paralyse a larger Union and prevent future Treaty reform.
Should Member States willing to do so be specifically allowed to integrate their policies further and faster than their more reluctant EU partners? Yes, otherwise the Union should be forever bound to advance at the speed of its slowest members. To some extent, flexibility already exists. Social policy, a single currency arrangement and the Schengen acquis all involve fewer than all fifteen Member States. Moreover, unbalanced economic integration of the EU has been beneficial to its Member States. As long as there is agreement on the goal, we can have flexibility. If there is no common goal we get variable geometry which is widely seen as more dangerous. Flexibility supposes that more slower members will catch up while variable geometry doesn't.
Given its enormous significance, the EU is expected to act efficiently. However, relatively small issues may suddenly become big issues in practice. This is illustrated, for example, by the tendency to keep the diversity of the official and working languages of the EU. 'The EU Council of Ministers of 12 June 1995 has not only reaffirmed its firm attachment to Linguistic Diversity, it has also decided to set up a commission to check that all the Institutions respect this... The Commission has been invited to make yearly reports on the application of these decisions ...' The current number of working languages of the EU is eleven. Since EU legislation is directly applicable in the national law, all languages with the official status in one or more of the Member States should be official EU languages as well. This means that there are now eleven official EUlanguages. With some Eastern Bloc countries joining the number will increase to sixteen or more which, in my opinion, will be virtually unworkable. This will only contribute to the lack of efficiency of the EU. I think it is wise to limit the number of working languages to a minimum of five, although in view of the fact that Council members have never been able to agree on a limit the number of working languages within the institutions, one may expect a continuing debate on this matter.
As we see, the EU is far from being perfect. And it never will, like any other man-made enterprise. But the Union cannot afford to be politically disappointing to its Member States, and especially to the countries which would like to join it. One could always argue that the EU will not benefit from 'the fifth enlargement' neither politically, nor economically, nor even administratively (since their ability to participate in the management of the EU is doubtful), and that a wider Union means a weaker Union. It is true, but, however, only in the short-run. The EU must upgrade its capacity to respond favourably to the other counties in Europe, otherwise we may find ourselves once again in a divided Europe. Therefore, my suggestion is that the limits of integration of the EU are politically unaffordable, in other words, 'the locomotive of European Integration' has passed the point of no return and there is no way back. There may be conflicting economic views about the wisdom of European Integration, or a continuing debate over the preservation by certain states of an ideal of national sovereignty, a tension between market Europe and social Europe, but yet despite of all this '... there appears to be an overall commitment to the process of integration in Europe for a variety of reasons, backed up perhaps by the 'shadow of war' factor which served as the original stimulus, so that whatever the tensions and differences which exist, the 'journey to an unknown destination' continues.'