chapter  1
11 Pages

Introduction

WithMichael Newman

In the final year of the twentieth century two very different episodes in European Union (EU) affairs highlighted issues of democracy. The first, in January, was the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) among eleven of the member states. This simultaneously raised questions about democracy both within the states and at EU level. If governments no longer possess traditional levers of macro-economic policy, this implies an important new stage in the erosion of domestic autonomy. At the same time the independence of the European Central Bank will limit the possibilities of intervention by the governments or the European Parliament at the EU level. Thus EMU could weaken democratic control of economic policy within the member states without establishing any new form of European political intervention. The second, unplanned, event came two months later when the European Parliament forced the resignation of the whole Commission over allegations of fraud and corruption. Previously termed the Parliament’s ‘nuclear weapon’ – on the grounds that it was too powerful ever to be used – the threat to dismiss the whole Commission put democratic accountability of the institutions at the forefront of the politics of European integration. However, neither EMU nor the crisis of the Commission reveals the full extent of the difficulties involved in democratizing the EU, for the problems are deeply embedded in its historical development.