European Identity-building and the Democratic Deficit - a Europe in search of its 'Demos'

by Bruhagen, Åsa

Abstract (Summary)
During the last two decades the citizens’ trust in the European Union (EU) has decreased. It has been established that the Union suffer from a democratic deficit which has caused it to impose so called “identity-policies”. There is a need for the citizens to identify with the Union as a foundation of its legitimacy. But there is a problem since there is no clear idea of who constitutes “the people” in the European case.Democratic theory presupposes a demos and a polity. The problem of the EU is that there are difficulties defining the ‘demos’ – there are difficulties identifying ‘the people’. The fact that the EU is in a situation where it has to deal with ‘peoples’ instead of a ‘people’ (demoi instead of demos) makes it more difficult since demos is closely related to the ‘nation’. Only nations may have states, thus the EU may not have a state. Hence it is difficult for the EU to conceptualize a demos, and without a demos there cannot be democracy. By arguing in this way the great need to create a ‘peoples’ Europe’ is understandable.The thesis will concentrate on why there is a lack of a demos, or a “We-feeling”, within the Union, why this is a source of anxiety, and what possibly could unite the Union.Attempts have been made to create a ‘European’ identity through constitution-making (however, a new constitution was recently rejected) and citizenship rights. The Union has also adopted a number of symbols to facilitate the citizens in identifying with the Union. Most of these symbols have been similar to those of the memberstates, thus, the Union has tried to use the methods of nation-building to overcome the legitimacy problem. Still, there is a lack of uniqueness of the Union. This may be for various reasons. Institution-building and constitution-making cannot alone provide democratic legitimacy; social practice and contestation must be included. This should take place in a public sphere but, in order to ‘have’ a public sphere, there must be a certain degree of collective identification.It has also been claimed that there is a ‘European’ culture stemming from three ancient treasure houses (the ancient Near East, the ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire). Since culture is based on norms, i.e. customs, attitudes, beliefs, and values of a society, it is of importance to the Union when this is what politics are based on.The study of this topic is relevant since the EU has an increased impact on the lives of its citizens, yet troubles to reach them. There is a lack of communication between the Union and its citizens and the democratic deficit becomes more and more obvious. The methods used by the Union do not seem successful and the issue of a European identity has become a source of anxiety.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Högskolan i Jönköping

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:european identity myths building democratic deficit culture society citizenship


Date of Publication:09/13/2006

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