Sunday, 22 June 2008

European Union: Legitimacy, accountability and democracy

How to bring the institutional forms of the European Union into line with the democratic forces?

Since the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, a number of posts on this blog have looked at various deep flaws of the European Union from a democratic perspective. European voices have mixed with American experiences and my own views.

Now could be a suitable time to look at these questions as a whole. The Federal Trust Report by professor Vernon Bogdanor ‘Legitimacy, Accountability and Democracy in the European Union’ (January 2007) is a reasoned attempt to discuss the improvement of the EU institutions within the existing structures, in order to arrive at a more democratic Europe.

The 20 page report is available at:

The report is evolutionary in character, in that it does not propose a re-establishment of the European Union with new structures, but suggests improvements to the existing ones.

My suggestion is for every concerned EU citizen to read the report, so I will present only a few short annotations of the proposals:

* The nomination of the European Commission directly on the basis of the result of the European elections.

* European Parliament power to hold individual European Commissioners to account for mismanagement, and to secure, if necessary, their dismissal.

* Referendums, preferably Europe-wide with a double and qualified majority of states and population on treaty change.

The report brings forward weighty remarks on the de-legitimising effects of the Council, but stops short of proposing effective remedies.


After an era of public indifference, the European project encountered increasing hostility. The time has come to work with the citizens of the EU.

Ralf Grahn