Political representation and government in the European Union

Peter Mair, Jacques Thomassen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper addresses two particular aspects of the much debated democratic deficit in European Union (EU) governance – the absence of a system of party government at the European level, whereby parties in the Parliament lack the capacity to effectively control the governing bodies of the EU, and the apparent failings in the capacity of parties at the European level to represent the will of the citizens of Europe. We question the self-evidence of the recommendation that the Union adapt to conventional party government models at the national level and argue that since many of the conditions facilitating the effective fusion of the functions of representation and of control of the government no longer pertain, it may actually prove unwise to seek to replicate this process at the European level. We go on to take issue with the traditional view that the European process of political representation fails mainly because political parties do not compete on so-called European issues. Despite a poor process of political representation at the European level, European elections and political parties appear to serve quite effectively as instruments of political representation. We conclude by suggesting that the effectiveness of political representation at the European level owes much to the absence of party government, such that, paradoxically, one of the most commonly cited aspects of the democratic deficit thereby appears to alleviate the other.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20-35
    JournalJournal of European public policy
    Volume17
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Keywords

    • Democratic deficit
    • European Union
    • Party government
    • Representation

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