Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


Law based integration

There is a marked difference between policy-networks consisting of private actors, interest groups, NGOs and governmental actors constituting a kind of trans-national civil society and the contribution of the EU to global governance. Even though institutions of civil society and public deliberation are important to bring about civility - trust and solidarity - modern law based on individual rights entitlements is equally important. Law is a medium for stabilising behavioural expectations and constraining defection and free-riding, because it connects non-compliance with sanctions. It is a way to solve the problem of collective action. There may be reasons to oppose even a rational agreement, and nobody is obligated to comply with collective norms unless all others also comply. Law is a medium for collective action because it combines wills with sanctions unilaterally. It makes agreements into rights or contracts, which make them binding on all the members in the same way.

The EU highlights the role of law, accountability and supranational political commitments - a structure not only capable of deliberation but also of collective action within an obligatory frame of reference. This is underscored by extended use of qualified-majority vote - i.e., after the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force - which in most cases, however, goes hand in hand with co-decision with the European Parliament.

Compared to other international organisations, the EU is not completely void of democratic quality (cf., Moravcsik 2001). In no other international organisation do we find so much openness, participation and electoral control. The EU is also an entity in the making and the integration process itself is lending legitimacy to the project as such. The way Treaty changes are conducted through referendums is an example of the power of the citizen in the integration process. The system of representation and accountability in the EU gives the citizens at least a minimal input in the process of framing and concretising the rights to be enacted. What is required, then, are rights which are specified with regard to the explicit duties of the power-wielding bodies, i.e., legislative, adjudicative and executive power bodies. The EU is in need of a more fundamental democratic reform.




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