Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


1. Introduction - Between Concrete Achievements and Disappointed Expectations

In its White Paper on European Governance published in July 2001,1 the European Commission identifies the need to reform European governance against the background of a mismatch between the concrete achievements of European integration on the one hand and the disappointment and alienation of `Europeans' on the other. One explanation for this incongruence, of course, would be to suggest that, contrary to the Commission's assumption, concrete achievements have not been much in evidence and the disappointment of ordinary citizens lies in the poor performance of the European Union (EU) institutions. Whatever the merits of this suggestion, perhaps a better explanation, and one that makes more sense of the Irish `No' vote on the ratification of the Nice Treaty is that, regardless of the ability of the EU to deliver `stability, peace and economic prosperity', what really counts is that those who are governed feel connected to, and can have influence upon, the system by which they are governed. The White Paper's assertion that `results have been achieved by democratic means' is, therefore, a half-truth. For much of the history of European integration, the concrete achievements have been the product of transnational technocratic decision-making among élite political actors.2 It is only in comparatively recent times that the EU has sought to acquire some of the bells and whistles of democratic constitutionalism. The question posed here is whether the concept of a 'European civil society' can assist in the development of a democratic constitutionalism which bridges the gap between society and transnational governance.

1 European Commission, European Governance: A White Paper, COM(2001) 428.

2 W. Wallace and J. Smith, `Democracy or Technocracy? European Integration and the Problem of Popular Consent' in J. Hayward (ed.) The Crisis of Representation in Europe (Frank Cass, 1995).




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