chapter  5
24 Pages

How democratic is the European Parliament?

WithJohn Lambert, Catherine Hoskyns

In the early 1990s, one of us (Lambert) depicted the European Parliament as a luxury cruise liner, whose passengers and crew were involved in complex activities and rituals about which the outside world knew little and cared less. Occasionally the ‘floating palace’ returned to port, but once it set sail again its existence was forgotten. Well, the liner is now permanently berthed and the passengers and crew have moved into the gigantic, fortress-like espace Leopold building in the European quarter of Brussels. Far from representing an airy, open public space, the building glowers across at the equally massive Council of Ministers building on the next block. Herein lies the dilemma for the Parliament: should it, can it, represent an alternative style of politics, while at the same time ‘acting tough’ and gaining a presence in the undemocratic and intimidating power structures through which the EU is at present governed?