The European Union: A Schumpeterian Model of Democracy

Markus Pausch
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One of the most discussed aspects of the so called democratic deficit of the EU is the lack of a European Public Sphere. The Union's democracy is perceived by its citizens as Schumpeterian in nature and this perception corresponds to a large extent to reality. Schumpeter described democracy as the rule of the politician, who gains decision making power in the free competition over votes. The parliament's role is of minor importance; it decides more by acceptance than by initiative. Citizens can neither bring up the issues nor decide them. The European Union is indeed an ideal platform for such a model, because it is complicated, technocratic and rather opaque. European integration was and still is an elite-dominated project, where citizens do not have many possibilities to intervene during legislation-periods. Over many years, the consensual behaviour of the political elites hindered the emergence of broad debate and of conflict in a European Public Sphere. Only in the last years, politicians tried to turn the table by stressing the importance of the European citizens. A convention was installed to work out a Constitutional Treaty. But once again, the debate remained elite-dominated. The heads of governments finally signed another elitist compromise without listening to the citizens. In consequence, the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005 is the result of an elitist and Schumpeterian model of democracy which is perpetuated by the new reform treaty of Lisbon. Thus, the claim for a European public sphere remains relevant. But scholars differently define such a sphere. The argument of this paper is that besides the often claimed Europeanization and transnationalisation of European debate the notion of broad conflict is of high importance for the emergence of a European public sphere.


European Union, Democratic Deficit, Schumpeter, European Public Sphere

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