Regional Integration: an opportunity to face the crises


(1) Peace ambitions may undermine democracy



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(1) Peace ambitions may undermine democracy:

Since its inception in the 1950s the EU has been seen as a device to overcome the belligerent tendencies of nation-states. Drawing on analysis and inspiration coming from the 18th century German enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant and others, the idea has been to promote peace through functional integration of the national economies in the region.

The dark side of this idea was that EU integration has worked top-down. The people have been seen as prone to aggressive sentiment. Integration has proceeded on the initiative and under the leadership of bureaucratic elites. Economic integration has intentionally been built as a device that will promote political and other integration later, behind the backs of the reluctant citizens. This top-down heritage has contributed to the creation of the so called democratic deficit of the European Union. In recent years this deficit in Europe has become obvious to all. The repeated side-stepping of the outcome of national referenda on EU-issues, such as the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution and the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty is rapidly leading Europe to a very serious and deep crisis in democratic legitimacy and participation.

The deficit is structural: decision-making in the EU is so undemocratic that, ironically, the EU, if it would be a nation, would hardly qualify for membership in the EU. Because of the post-war technocratic logic of EU-integration the democratic crisis in Europe is also very deep-seated. It will take time to overcome it. At the moment, the effort by EU-leaders to enforce the Lisbon treaty show that so far the EU is on the wrong track in this regard.

The lesson to be learnt is that regional cooperation must, much more than has been the case in Europe, be built democratically, with explicit consent and support by the citizens.



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