Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


3. Democracy without Politics: the Democratic Concept of the White Paper

Of the five basic principles of `good governance' which the Commission develops in the White Paper, three can, without problem, be understood as elements of a modern democracy theory: openness, participation, and responsibility (13f.). However, at the same time, what these elements, in the form in which they are presented in the White Paper, have in common is that they give as little consideration to the Commission's commitment to decisions from outside as they do to the political discussion about the goals and methods. In this draft, neither the Counsel nor the voters are placed in a position to obligate the Commission. The closer one takes a look at the way the White Paper is formulated, the clearer this becomes.

The White Paper emphasises the term `responsibility' but does not draw any concrete institutional consequences for the Commission's responsibilty from it. Undoubtedly, a clear distribution of roles between the political protagonists is desireable (13). But the term `responsibility' does not become a democratic concept until the attribution of responsibility can also lead to sanctions. In connection to this, the end of the Santer Commission could have been questioned more thoroughly about institutional consequences which go beyond the current rules. However, the White Paper does not want to deal with this kind of political sharpening of `responsibility' which would surely strengthen the Commission. The term remains part of an unclear concept of discourse, of which the very simplified fault allocations to Member States' administration and courts (32) form a part.

Also, the use of the category of participation raises a certain amount of doubt. One does not have to be a follower of a democratic theory which argues for a strict intergovernmental community8 in order to be astonished by the unconditional comparison of the diplomatic and democratic process in the White Paper (38f.). On the contrary, phrases such as `consultation culture' and `coherence', used by the Commission, clearly remind one of the work of international organisations. Every international organisation that is somewhat differentiated makes use of the participation of those affected when it comes to working out standards9-but it is not these participation mechanisms that give reason for a democratic practice of government or that do justice to the special features of the European integration. Observation of the political relationships between the population and the government, on the one hand, and the Commission, on the other, are completely left out of consideration in this. The fact that the Commission, in its plea for the abolition of comitology (40f.), turns against the community-specific institution whose example was followed when forming new democratic legitimations10 complements this impression; the definition of the term `civil society' as a sum of all corporatist structures (19, comment 1) finally finishes it off. Presumably, it was not by accident that the Commission adopted this definition, which was taken from a statement from the Economic and Social Committee-an institution (which in German constitutional law is very similar to the Bavarian senate) which was dissolved two years ago through a referendum.With this, the Commission follows a tendency that can also be recognized in the political theory of the last few years. New forms of legitimation are being discussed under the heading of deliberative democracy. However, relatively little attention is being paid to the fact that democracy and deliberation represent two different elements of the concept.11 Democratic self-determination requires more that the opportunity to voice one's opinion.

In the limiting of democracy to a dialogue with élites and corporations, in the repression of the fact that the Commission exercises dominion, and in its removal from democratic processes, which were indeed developed on a national-state level but are not necessarily limited to this, the Commission's continuing neo-functionalistic self-understanding is clearly shown, and this can hardly justify an extension of the Commission's competencies. The fact that the Community will, in the future, transform more and more from distributing rights of freedom to interfering in them, i.e., that the Community's exercise of dominion will be felt more and more clearly, remains systematically misjudged.

8 For which there are still many reasons: M. Kaufmann, Europäische Integration und Demokratieprinzip, 1997.

9 For the participation of employees and employers in the setting of ILO standards, see, for example,

10 Compare C. Joerges/J. Neyer, From Intergovernmental Bargaining to Deliberative Political Processes: The Constitutional of Comitology, European Law Journal 3 (1997), 273-299.

11 J. M. Bessette, The Mild Voice of Reason, 1997.




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