Is an efficient EU a legitimate EU?

Tiistaina, 31. maaliskuuta 2009     0 kommentti(a)

I recently attended the final conference of EU-CONSENT, the ‘Constructing Europe Network’ – a multi-year, EU-funded network bringing academics and research institutes from across Europe together. The networks’ central point was to study whether the widening of Europe (enlargement) has affected the deepening of Europe (further integration at the EU level). One of the previously theorised outcomes of enlargement was that the diverse new members from eastern and central Europe would stop or slow down integration. This is not a new idea; many in Britain supported the efforts of Sweden and Finland to join the EU in the early 90s because it was expected that the Nordic neutrals would act as brake on the more ambitious visions for the EU’s future emanating from some other member states at the time.

But amongst the results that came from the EU-CONSENT group that has been looking at institutional matters, was that that the enlargement had not stopped the ‘deepening’ of the EU at all. Rather, amongst the new and old member states there was a realisation that they would have to be more efficient to make the expanded union work. Whilst this is arguably a positive development, the researchers point out a problem. This efficiency has come from an increase in the ‘pre-cooking’ of meetings and summits before they actually convene. Hence the debate, argument and compromise have taken place amongst the member states before the meetings where the decisions are formally made. These formal meetings of heads of states or relevant ministers are now, to a great extent, pre-scripted. Hence post-enlargement efficiency amongst the 27 is potentially coming at the cost of legitimacy, as now it is less apparent to citizens where, how and why decisions are taken.

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