23 Mar 2015 28 Apr 2017
Without being perceived as legitimate, the European Union (EU) is not able to continue or further integrate its regulations on a European level or expand with new member states, and therewith it only has limited power over its member states. According to a still growing number of authors the European Union is losing legitimacy among its member state citizens and that the Union should be concerned with the matter (Eriksen and Fossum, 2000; FÃ˜llesdal, 2006; Moravcsik, 2002; Weale and Nentwich, 1998). This loss of legitimacy for EU actions as it is perceived by its citizens is caused by the 'democratic deficit'. This loss of legitimacy is probably best illustrated by the Dutch and French voting against the European Constitution (2005) and the decreasing number of citizen members voting for the elections of the European Parliament (FÃ˜llesdal, 2006).
One of the explanations for the decrease in legitimacy from its member state citizens is the EU political integration and enlargement with new member states. Many scholars, scientists and journalists have asked themselves the question whether member state citizens support such European integration, however, the research on the effect of EU integration on the legitimacy is very scattered up to now. This literature review will present the discussion which is going on about this topic.
How legitimate is European integration regarded to be by its member state citizens according to the literature?
The goal of this literature research is to present the abstract discussion on the influence of EU integration upon the perceived level of legitimacy as found in the literature based upon a theoretical explanation.
This literature review is contributing to the existing literature by presenting the debate about the legitimacy deficit that the EU is faced with by highlighting the scattered argument of EU integration. Thereby, this study is a small step in better understanding the loss of legitimacy that the EU is confronted with.
Both variables are very broad, however, when putting them into a European context, they can be narrowed down to more tangible terms. In this paper, legitimacy is specified into political legitimacy and refers to support given to the EU by its member state citizens. Defining integration in this sense is a bit more complicated. The EU is integrating on several matters. This study focuses on political integration which is explained in the abstract terms of 'deepening' and 'widening'. This section contains the operationalization of both variables and provides the background in a European context.
It must be stated that legitimacy is a very complex term and no single definition of legitimacy has been universally accepted (Ansell, 2001). However, a definition stated by Ansell (2001) which was originally set up by Max Weber touches upon the intentions for this literature research rather well: 'Weber linked legitimacy to the willingness to comply with a system of rule ('legitimacy orders') or to obey commands ('imperative control')(p.8704)'. For a proper understanding of this literature review this definition must then be specified into the direction of political legitimacy. According to Ansell (2001) 'political legitimacy refers to the moral and normative principles by which governments, regimes, and institutions justify their right to demand compliance, obedience, or allegiance'(abstract). Toorn et al. (2010) state that legitimacy is a necessity for authorities because it is a vital source of power and evokes voluntary deference among its followers, in this case EU member state citizens. This, in its turn is needed for voluntary obedience of citizens to the authority. Without such obedience, citizens do not comply to the rules and other regulations of the authority and opposition, conflict or even war could occur.
In an EU context, being a liberal democracy, legitimacy seems to go together with democracy, the more democratic the Union is appearing, the more legitimate it is perceived (Blondel,Sinnot & Svensson, 1998). Key elements which make a polity democratic are competitive elections, transparency of the decision-making process and active organs in it, the interest groups around those organs and the accountability of the political leaders (Blondel, Sinnot & Svensson, 1998). A political institution could be confronted with a democratic deficit, meaning that it lacks democracy and that the methods of operating are too complex for the ordinary citizen that it becomes inaccessible to them (Electronic Glossary: 'Democratic Deficit, EU Commission). In this research it is assumed that the democratic deficit is leading to a lack of legitimacy or better said: a legitimacy deficit. According to Beetham (1991) a legitimacy deficit is a 'discrepancy between rules and supporting beliefs, absence of shared beliefs criteria of legitimacy (p. 20)'.
In their book, Blondel, Sinnot & Svensson (1998) argue that legitimacy stems from the support which citizens give to the authority in question. This is indicating that legitimacy is not a dichotomous variable, meaning that a polity is not either legitimate or not, but the level of legitimacy can fluctuate and is more or less legitimate. The explain support by the 'distance distance between what individuals wish to see the institution doing and how this 'what' should be done, on the other hand, and what the institution is regarded as doing and how it is doing it' (p. 7). The level of support is then determined by looking at the size of the distance: when the distance is considered to be small by citizens, the level of support will be greater. This indication is making support something which can be measured on an individual level. However, the level of support given to an institution can also be measured on a group level (e.g. in a nation, Benelux, Western nations belonging to the EU, or all EU member states). The level of support can be positive or negative of which the latter one would indicate an opposition to the state (Blondel, Sinnot & Svensson, 1998).
Individuals may support certain fields of areas of an institution and may not support other fields, therefore, institutions may only receive support on some matters but not on others. As a consequence, institutions can never be fully legitimate to all involved individuals, either direct or indirect. In the case of the EU, it cannot be regarded to be legitimate since not all EU citizens grand their support to all fields of area on which it is actively involved, designating that the level of legitimacy of the EU is variable and is limited to some fields (Blondel et al., 1998).
Moreover, the EU can receive support in different ways. For example, a citizen might support the main aim of the Union but not all specific activities and another citizen might be supportive towards many EU activities but not agree to the overall aim of it fields (Blondel et al., 1998).
This research is focused on the support given to the EU by its current member state citizens, not potential ones such as the Croatian or Turkish. The effect on new member state citizens  is only taken into account after their admission.
One of the major reasons why France, West Germany, the Benelux and Italy founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) by means of the Treaty of Paris in 1951 was to create possibilities for a common market of steal and coal in order to maintain peace and stimulate economical growth. The participating countries started to make an attempt to integrate their resources, knowledge and capabilities in order achieve these goals. The ECSC was the first pan European polity, being a common institution with common rules with a responsibility to the common interests instead of merely to the own nation (Monnet, 1962). Such a treaty should lead to European unity among its member states. In the institutions which followed upon the ECSC, of which the European Union (EU) is the institution as we know it today, unity has always been one of the very core issues. The current shape of the EU is defined as follow: 'the European Union is a treaty-based, institutional framework that defines and manages economic and political cooperation among its 27 member states. It is governed by several institutions (Congression Research Service [CRS], Report for Congress 2008, p. 2.)'.
More recently, in 1999, Alesina and Wacziarg described the EU as being 'somewhere in between a free market area and a political federation with too many centralized policies to be a simple free trade area, but its central political institutions are not sufficiently developed for it to be a federal state as we normally think of (p. 2)'. Because Europe was integrating on an economical level in that time, some scholars regarded an increase in the process of political integration necessary. At that time the role of the EU had become questionable and according to Alesina and Wacziarg, the EU was standing at the 'crossroads in terms of institutional design (p. 2)'.
Over the years the EU is becoming a political union ever more and is taken over aspects of everyday life which were previously regarded to be the domain of national governments. Creating such a political union can be done by extending the policy prerogatives of Europe and reforming its political institutions (Alesina and Wacziarg, 1999). For this research, these matters are referred to as deepening.
At the last enlargement moment, in 2004, ten new countries were included in the Union and in 2005 the negotiations have started with potential member candidates, Turkey and Croatia.
It should be noted that widening does not involve integrating national governments because that could have a different impact on the perceived legitimacy compared to the other forms of integration that were mentioned because the supportiveness of the EU by citizens might depend on their supportiveness on their national governments. This exclusion must keep the distinction between national support and EU support clear.
Concluding on this section, EU integration remains a broad term and includes many different forms and aspects. However, in most literature no clear definitions of integration is given as such and is used as a general term. For this research, as mentioned, the distinction is made between political integration and enlargement with new member states.
In order to be able to answer the research question a literature study is executed. First, a broad literature search is done in which the author seeks articles that touch upon the research topic. Important research terms are political legitimacy, EU, expansion/enlargement/integration, normative pressures, democracy and power. Databases used for searching are the Tilburg University database in which Science Direct and JSTOR are considered to be of major importance. Additionally, databases such as the European Journal of Political Research and European Journal of Political Theory (of Sage, journals online) contain many articles which touch upon the research topic and are used intensively. Besides those databases, the White Paper on Governance (COM, 2001b) is of major contribution to the research for this review.
Continuously, a selection of the articles will be made which will result in the list of articles used and/or cited in this paper. This is done by reading the abstract and, when considered relevant, the conclusion and discussion of the gathered articles. In addition to scientific articles, the author searches for news articles regarding the topic. All the relevant articles that are found are presented in a so-called monster matrix including the name of the author(s), year of publication, title, key concepts, variables, key findings and contribution. This monster matrix is presented in table 1 on page nine and ten. And it presents an overview of all the opinions of the authors of the matter. The findings are used as a basis for the results and data analysis.
Furthermore, when researching political legitimacy, two different approaches can be chosen, namely the normative- or the empirical approach. The latter one focuses on 'why or when people do obey, respect, or show allegiance to a particular government, regime, state, policy, or institution (Ansell 2001, p. 8704)'. Whereas the 'normative approach is used by political philosophers to identify the standards by which a regime or action must be judged if it is to be regarded as legitimate (Ansell 2001, p. 8704)'. In his 2005 article, Tsakatika states that 'the question of (normative) legitimacy is brought up when (empirical) legitimacy is missing or deficient (p. 193)'. This makes sense in relation to the topic of this paper since the EU is confronted with a so-called 'democratic deficit' causing a decrease of legitimacy. The vast amount of articles on which this review relies are based on the normative approach. However, according to Ehin (2008), the relationship between support and legitimacy is an empirical matter. The articles which the author of this research found relating this issue are indeed empirically oriented and make use of measurable variables. The results will present a mixture of normative and empirical oriented data.
This chapter will present the results of the conducted literature study. As mentioned, the content of the monster matrix set the basis for it. First, the vision of the EU on the integration process is presented. Second, the reasons why citizens would be supportive or not for the process. This will be based upon the empirical approach. Following, the next two sections will present the opinions of authors about to what extend the process of integration is legitimate. Those two sections will follow the normative line of reasoning.
A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE ON INTEGRATION
In general, one can say that it is more hard for the EU to reach forms of legitimacy than it is for national governments since the EU is a new type of political system (Ehin, 2008). Moreover, given the levels which integration has already achieved so far, people are developing similar expectations for the EU ass they have for national politics. (COM, 2001b). However, according to the White Paper on European Governance (COM, 2001b), the 'Union cannot develop and deliver policy in the same way as a national government; it must build partnerships and rely on a wide variety of actors. Expectations must be met in different ways. (P. 32)'.
In the White Paper it is stated that the EU is faced with a paradox concerning legitimacy. On the one hand, European citizens expects the Union to take care of problems that their society is confronted with by imposing law, regulations, subsidy or any other action. On the other hand, there is an increasing amount of people who distrust certain EU bodies and/or policies or do just not have any interest in them. The main reason that the Commission gives for the decreasing level of legitimacy and support is that 'people are losing confidence in a poorly understood and complex system to deliver the policies that they want. The Union is often seen as remote and at the same time too intrusive (P. 3)'.
In order to fight the decreasing level of legitimacy and support the EU is constantly continuing its integrating process. In that, the Commission states to strive for more openness and better policies, regulation and delivery, refocused institutions and simplification (COM, 2001b). The EU has a positive attitude towards the political integration process and states the following about it:
'European integration has delivered fifty years of stability, peace and economic prosperity. It has helped to raise standards of living, built an internal market and strengthened the Union's voice in the world. It has achieved results that would not have been possible by individual Member States acting on their own. It has attracted a succession of applications for membership and in a few years time it will expand on a continental scale. It has also served as a model for regional integration across the world (COM, 2001b, p. 7).'
In the process of integration the EU is focused on the principles on which the European Community was founded (1999) namely to 'integrate the people of Europe, while fully respecting individual national identities (p. 32)'. The process of political integration goes hand in hand with the process of enlargement. The Commission also has a positive attitude towards the progress which has been made and the concept of EU enlargement in general. The report of the CRS (2008), prepared for the members of Members and Committees of the Congress, clarifies the position of the EU towards enlargement as follow:
'The EU views enlargement as a historic opportunity to help in the transformation of the countries involved, extending peace, stability, prosperity, democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout Europe. The carefully managed process of enlargement is one of the EU's most powerful policy tools that has helped to transform the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into more modern, functioning democracies (p. 3)'.
From those statements one can conclude that the Commission is in favour of the continuation of both forms of integration and regards the benefits to outweigh the disadvantages of it.
SUPPORT FOR INTEGRATION - EMPERICAL APPROACH
One of the most used methods for measuring the Union's legitimacy and the support of its citizens is the Eurobarometer in which citizens are asked for personal info and opinions. Those make up the empirical test about integration an legitimacy. Besides, as cited in Vreese and Boomgaarden (2005), European integration is issue on which has most been voted-on world-wide by, for example, referendums.
In their research, Hooghe and Marks (2005) identified the variables which influence the level of support for European integration based on previous research and their own. For this, they made use of economic- and non-economic models. The most important ones were: the perceived cultural threat, national pride, European attachment, party support, system support, government support, perception EU representation, satisfaction EU democracy, catholic country, distance to Brussels, occupation, income, education, proximity to border, national benefit, EU trade, budget return, human capital, relative weigh occupation and type of capitalism.
In their conclusion Hooghe and Marks (2005) state that economic interests and communal identities are taken into account when citizens are forming an opinion on European integration. When citizens expect to derive economic benefits from integration they will be more supportive of the integration process (Gabel, 1998). Additionally, member state citizens 'evaluate European integration in terms of their communal identities and their views towards foreigners and foreign cultures (p. 436)'. The opinions regarding these matters vary across the different member states since integration has different consequences for citizens in different member states. Additionally, the expected effect on welfare states is considered as well.
Another important conclusion of work Hooghe and Marks' (2005) work is the fact that the opinion about EU integration is influenced by national elites. When elites have a strong national identity, it is highly likable that the public opinion will lean towards a strong national identity and be less supportive of European integration. National identity and European integration go hand in hand and strong feelings of national identity lead to Euro-skepticism.
YES LACK OF LEGITIMACY IN THE INTEGRATION PROCESS - NORMATIVE APPROACH
Glencross, Eriksen & Fossum, Tsakatika, Bellamy & Castiglione (Legitimizing the Euro-'Polity' and its 'Regime')
According to Tsakatika (2005), Europe is suffering from a democratic deficit and is lacking legitimacy. The acceptance and legitimacy has been diminishing and the enlargement is most likely to cause a further decrease in legitimacy.
A problem which worries many integrationists is the alleged lack of legitimacy of the process on integration, particularly in a period when that process faces some far-reaching changes and challenges. Lack of legitimacy, in turn, is frequently regarded as being due, at least in part, to the 'democratic deficit' of the European Union.
What came under attack was the idea that power and authority to decide on entire areas and sectors of policy could continue to be centralized at the European level with no convincing public justification of the legitimate need to do so. Furthermore, a second negative by-product of integration 'by stealth' was considered to be that it brought about confusion concerning the level of governance that had competence to decide in different policy areas. Integration (or further integration) was not to be considered legitimate unless it was publicly justifiable and did not create confusion about 'who does what' in the Union. Tsakatika
According to the standard version, the fact that another level of governance has been added on top of the national level, is a problem for democracy, because decision-making becomes more distant from citizens, while each citizen sees his or her influence in decision-making drastically diminished (Weiler et al., 1995).
What shows (evidence) is there for the deficit?
What causes the deficit besides integration? (other variables)
How bad is this deficit for the EU?
The democratic deficit is a lack of legitimacy, in that EU decisions are not sufficiently responsive to public preferences and scrutiny (Scharpf, 1997). (Vreese & Boomgaarden)
NO LACK OF LEGITIMACY IN THE INTEGRATION PROCESS - NORMATIVE APPROACH
Monnet (NO DD), Moravcsik, Tsakatika
Moravcsik is the only author who argues that the concern for the EU democratic deficit is misplaced (Moravcsik, 2002). However, none of the articles that have been researched deny a concern for the lack of legitimacy in the European integration process.
So, we might reasonably ask, why then is there such public and scholarly concern about the democratic deficit? Concern appears to result, above all, from a tendency to privilege the abstract over the concrete. Most critics compare the EU to an ideal plebiscitary or parliamentary democracy, standing alone, rather than to the actual functioning of national democracies adjusted for its multi-level context. When we conduct the latter sort of analysis, we see that EU decision-making procedures, including those that insulate or delegate certain decisions, are very much in line with the general practice of most modern democracies in carrying out similar functions. This overall trend toward insulation of certain functions is in turn driven, most analysts believe, by considerations that should be given normative weight, such as the complexity of many policy issues, the rational ignorance and apathy of many publics, the desire to protect minority rights, and the power of certain special interests in situations of open political contestation. P. 621-622.
we cannot draw negative conclusions about the legitimacy of the EU from casual observation of the non-participatory nature of its institutions - a dictum that could usefully be applied in many contexts outside the EU. P. 622.
Integration of Europe should give member states the resources they lack themselves in order for the citizens to benefit from it in their personal lives (Monnet, 1962).
Integration as such, as well as its modality, can be considered legitimate because it is the best instrument available for the achievement of European unity.
It can be said that the substantive underlying argument against the legitimacy of further integration as such, was based on diversity: it was based on fears that integration in general and Community measures, regulations in particular, had undesirable homogenizing effects on national (and subnational) diversity (BanÃºs, 2002). The claim can be seen to be that integration as such should be considered legitimate insofar as it respects national-subnational diversity, the latter constituting a value in itself, to be accepted and maintained (Weiler, 2001). Tsakatika, P. 200.
How legitimate is European integration regarded to be by its member state citizens according to the literature?
Answer to the research question.
What has been shown in the results?
There seems to be an enormous amount of explanations that make an attempt to answer the research question. This review showed that there is not much consensus on what the most important factors are that explain the lack of legitimacy. There are many different views, perspectives, approaches and opinions on the matter.
The main conclusion which can be drawn from this research is that the vast majority of researchers of interested in the legitimacy of the European integration process are of opinion that it does lack legitimacy and that there is a democratic deficit. Only very few scholars provide counter arguments. The strongest that have been made are presented in this section.
Expansion is something nations/ national governments do not have to deal with.
So: even though the EU is not formed by people of the same ethnic background, like nations are (?) but still, every time expansion takes place there is some kind of resistance and it has an effect on the perceived level of legitimacy.
Should we be concerned?
Is it normal that this phenomenon occurs? Has it occurred somewhere else?
What does theory say about the influence?
Whereas it is clear how support effects the European integration process, it is much less clear how integration effects the legitimacy. The original goal for this literature study was to identify the relationship between European integration and the perceived legitimacy, however, after the literature review it became clear that this relationship is poorly researched up till now.
Instead, the main contribution of this paper is the identification for further research in order to clarify the relationship...
LIMITATIONS & IMPLICATIONS
Even though the lack of legitimacy by which the integration process is confronted with is a rather old phenomenon, public opinion on European integration is a fast moving issue and the studies used for this review come from ranging years. According to Moravcsik (2002) the EU was faced with a continues debate about the proper constitutional structure for Europe. This indicates that the opinions of citizens change and new goals and actions are set by the EU to find solutions. It is not exactly certain how the support and perceived legitimacy of the integration process has been evolving over the years or how it might have changed. Additionally, possible control factors such as the financial crisis have not been taken into account in this review.
Unexpectedly, little is known about the effect of political integration on legitimacy in general, which led that the author had to be very thorough in defining the terms of the study herself in order to be able to be precise on the results and conclusion. Many of the scholars who wrote on European integration fail to give a good definition of what, accordingly to them, is included in the term how they have researched it. The same is true for legitimacy and support within the EU.
A major implication of this study was the comprehensiveness of the relationship between the democratic deficit and the lack of legitimacy. After thorough research it became clear that scholars do not have a unitary vision of the exact identification of the problem. In the authors eyes there are two visions of how to look at the relationship. First, it could be explained that the democratic deficit is causing the lack of legitimacy, due to the fact that the EU and its bodies are not regarded to be democratic enough. On the other hand, it could be stated that the democratic deficit is caused by a lack of legitimacy explained in such a way that because the EU and its bodies are not representative and accountable enough, citizens might regard them to be less democratic.
Connections and links between the concepts are highly confusing. This problem is probably caused by the fact that most studies concerning the topic, that were reviewed for this study, are based on a normative approach. Only very few articles have used an empirical approach in which relationships between measurable variables are tested. However, since the question is more a normative matter, which normative criteria should be used to measure the legitimacy of European integration?
Since the integration of the EU is expected to continue, as well by means of political integration as well as by means of enlargement with new member states, it is highly recommendable to conduct an empirical research on the effect of integration of the perceived level of legitimacy among member state citizens.
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