Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


4. Governance and Scientific Policy

The Commission's difficulties with its own chosen form of discourse can also be described from a theoretically scientific perspective.
The White Paper defines its topic-governance-as `rules, procedures, and methods of conduct, that characterise the way and method that power is exercised at European level, particularly in relationship to openness, participation, responsibility, efficiency, and coherence' (10, comment 1). The limits of this definition, however, remain unclear throughout the entire White Paper. Fundamentally, due to its lack of selectivity, the term `governance' does not seem to offer an ideal instrument for describing systems with several levels. The indiscriminate inclusion of various levels, private and sovereign political protagonists as well as normative and descriptive characteristics is somewhat opposed to a differentiation of problems. The White Paper's statement that the civil society must also observe the principles of good governance (20)-a statement that contains a hardly foreseeable potential for limiting freedoms, and assumes an equality of measurement for private and sovereign action, which is basically unknown to liberal political systems-is symptomatic of this vagueness of terms. Moreover, it is precisely this vagueness of the term `governance' that provokes the question of whether the concept is actually supposed to exclude the observance of material policies, as occurs in the White Paper. Can one write about something so complex as the governance of the EU without concerning oneself with the type of its tasks?

The idea of a general lesson about `good governance', which can automatically result from certain principles, seems to back up the statements of the White Paper. Independent of the status of the scientific democratic theory as well as the political constellation within the Community, the White Paper falls back upon the `good governance' figure, which found its most famous representation in Lorenzetti's Sienese frescos.12 However, the idea of `good governance' is pre-modern. It fits an authority that existed before the differentiation of a political sphere, whose fullness of power, which is not limited by procedural technology, must at least be obligated to a certain elementary principle of justice. The concept hardly corresponds with the communication of various kinds of democratic processes, which is to be accomplished through integration. The achievement of liberal constitutional states consists of solving the question of correct order procedurally. The commitment to principles is replaced by the commitment to decision-making procedures. There is not much evidence to support the idea that this achievement would have been superseded by integration. The formula of `good governance' still falls back behind this.

The core of the White Paper's normative argument is the avowal of certain principles. However, the White Paper does not answer the question as to why exactly these values, and not others as well, were included in the presentation, even though many of the White Paper's suppositions, perhaps like the beneficial effect of electronic media for the political process, are very controversial.13

The White Paper's principles could also develop their own descriptional value without conclusive derivation, but only if they were confronted with concrete opposing concepts. No one wants an incoherent, vague or even bad form of governance; but just because no one wants it does not automatically mean that nothing is said when someone intercedes for a coherent, transparent or even good order.

12 H. Hofmann, Bilder des Friedens (Illustrations of Peace) or Die Vergessene Gerechtigkeit (The Forgotten Justice), 1997.

13 H. Buchstein, Bytes that Bite. Internet and Deliberative Democracy, Constellations 4 (1997), 248-263.




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