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Policy Paper

Democracy and European Governance


Author: Paolo Ponzano
Date: November 2012


The main assumption is that the system of governance of the European Union has never been consistent with the principles of democratic legitimacy found in its Member States, starting with the fundamental principle of separation of powers.  This inconsistency is certainly caused by the particular features of a project that aims to create a supranational democracy while taking into account the legitimate interests of the current Member States.
This paper reiterates the main criticisms from political analysts about the democratic deficit of the European Union and also the famous judgement of the German Constitutional Court of 30 June 2009 which stated that a supranational democracy should not necessarily be based on the same principles as a national democracy.
The Lisbon Treaty introduced some improvements to the functioning of European governance, but did not eliminate the main anomalies in the Treaties and in institutional practice. These anomalies have been exacerbated by the sovereign debt crisis and the need to defend the single currency from speculative attacks, since the European Council has tried to dampen down the crisis by resorting to economic policy decisions that hover near and even breach the outer limits of the EU’s authority.
This paper analyses some possible solutions for strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the European Union but reveals their insufficiency in that they remain within the legal framework of the current Treaties. Therefore, the conclusion reached is that only a modification of the Treaties and the progressive establishing of a federal system would be able to solve the problem of the European Union’s democratic legitimacy. 

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