The ‘democratic principle’ and the European Union: The challenge of a post-national democracy
The debate in Europe and about Europe has largely changed in nature since the 1970s: during the decade preceding the creation of the Common Market and during the 15 years following the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the attention of pro-or anti-European militants as well as that of the media and observers was polarized around the how, or perhaps the why, of a disputed integration: What was Europe for? Which countries should or could join in this common venture? Little thought or discussion was dedicated – even by the founders – to the nature of this new creature and in particular to its compatibility with national political systems. The preoccupations of the time were to be found elsewhere and were fixated on the hugely symbolic and particularly delicate question of sovereignty. It seemed that the problem was one exclusively of the transfer of power from one level (that of the nation state) to another (supranational). The nature and the method of exercising that power did not appear to be on the agenda. The institutional semantics of the 1950s were significant in expressing the choice to remain, at least partially, outside the classic democratic referential framework. The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) had its ‘High Authority’ and, later, the EEC was represented by a Commission: these new institutions did their business by way of regulations or directives and not by way of legislative decisions.