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European integration has proved to be a difficult issue for governments in many countries. Political leaders make deals, but in some member states the public seems markedly unenthusiastic. As Geddes1 explains, ‘the intensity of elite level debates about European integration within the political parties and in Parliament has not been matched by a similar fascination about European integration and its implications amongst the general public’. Many voters claim not to know about, not to understand and not to trust the EU and its workings. In Britain and some other countries, there is a high degree of skepticism about what is being done on their behalf.
Democracy and the European Union
The EU’s alleged democratic deficit is subject to much debate. Arguments against the democratic shortcomings of the Union are varied and come from many quarters, but there is general agreement among many observers that the EU’s ruling elites have become increasingly out of touch with its citizens. We will present a synthesis of the main arguments that have been advanced. Having analysed some of the apparent problems of legitimacy and democracy within the EU, we then explore possible ways of overcoming them. The word ‘democracy’ derives from two Greek terms: ‘demos’ meaning people and ‘kratia’ signifying rule of or by. Many people therefore see democracy as meaning ‘people power’, with government resting on the consent of the governed. A democratic political system is one in which public policies are made, on a majority basis, by representatives subject to effective popular control at periodic elections which are conducted on the principle of political equality and under conditions of political freedom.
The European Union has often been criticised for its lack of democratic institutions and for the way in which they operate. In a speech in 1994, Sir Leon Brittan, a former British commissioner, identified ‘a widespread sense of unease about Brussels and what it stands for’.
EU budgetary process
The EU budget is a contentious issue that has, on occasion, been the cause of considerable debate and conflict among the member states. Because of the controversies of the early 1980s, it was agreed at the 1988 Brussels Summit that it would be better if there was agreement between the institutions on the overall size and structure of the Union’s income and expenditure for a period of five or seven years ahead. In the Interinstitutional Agreement on Budgetary Discipline and Improvement of the Budgetary Procedure, it was accepted that there should be a financial framework for the immediate years ahead. This became known as the financial perspective (FP) and it covered the period 1988-1992 (Delors I). Subsequently, the other financial perspectives have been fixed for 1993-1999 (Delors II), 2000-2006, 2007-2013 and 2014-2018.
Welfare to Work
Replacing or supplementing labor market incomes?
Social policy evens out the distribution of income. It prevents social unrest, it satisfies the taxpayers’ sense of justice and it insures against random variations in people’s lifetime careers. Ideally, it insures risks that are not privately insurable, either because risk markets suffer from adverse selection or because private insurance comes too late in a person’s life, when the veil of ignorance has already been lifted.