| 1. Demos and Democracy
Democracy is a way of
organising power, of structuring a society. More precisely, it is
the way of organising society according to the nowadays at
least in the Western world commonly shared normative assessment that,
in principle, all people should take part in politics, that all power
derives from the people. Democracy thus engenders two highly ambitious
claims, namely for an effective political system and a normatively
desirable society. Obviously, these two concepts are linked - e.g.
an effective political system is expected to produce those welfare
effects a good society needs - but these aims can also contradict
each other, e. g. when long-winded democratic procedures reduce the
output (i.e. the effective policy making) of the system. The two concepts
this paper is dealing with - identity and representation - are paramount
for both aspects, normative desirability and effectiveness, i. e.
The question for the collective
identity of a democratic polity is the question for its people. Who
is the demos? Who belongs to it and who does not? These issues can
be dealt with out of an external and out of an internal
The external perspective
looks at formal criteria for belonging to the "demos" of
a polity, i.e. to enjoy formal political rights. Over large periods
of democracy those defined as the "people" were actually
a rather small minority of all people living within the boundaries
of the respective democratic state: White men with property, men who
had absolved their military service, free men ... However, since slavery
has been abolished, property is no longer a presupposition for the
right to vote and suffrage has been granted to women we feel that
we know fairly well who "the people" is - at least at the
national level. But this is only partially true. To give an example:
In Austria, the right to vote in elections to the national parliament
and the state's parliaments is granted to Austrians aged over 18.
EU-citizens living in Austria may take part in EU-elections and in
elections on community level. (see http://188.8.131.52/web/bmiwebp.nsf/AllPages/WA991217000019)
So, the "people" of Austria is defined by a certain age
group and by national restrictions. EU-citizens obviously have an
amibvalent status being at some occasion part of the Austrian people
and at other ones not while the 7,7% of Austrian population consisting
of Non-EU-foreigners (Volkszählung 2001 see: http://www.statistik.at) have no political
rights in their country of residence. - As we know some of these issues
are regulated in a different way in other states: "In 1985 the
Netherlands adopted a local franchise independent of nationality after
five years of residence. Ireland has allowed non-citizens to vote
in local elections since 1963. The Swiss Cantons Neuchâtel and Jura
also grant voting rights to non-citizens." (Bauboeck 2001, 14)
There seem to be many different, historically contingent answers to
the vital question of democracy, "who is the people?" As
Hardt and Negri (2002, 97-104) rightly observe the "people"
never includes all real people but rather stands as a representative
The internal perspective
focuses on the feeling of belonging to a political entity. How is
political identity created and sustained? It is part of the self-understanding
of nation states that political identity derived out of cultural identity,
that common roots, a shared history, the rules, norms, and values
of a people made it to a nation that, consequently, strived for the
erection of a nation state. However, the assumption that nation states
emerged because of the existence of a culturally homogenous group,
i.e. a nation, is a myth. Nations have been constructed parallely
to the construction of nation states, not the nation state became
necessary because of the existence of nations but nations became necessary
because of the need of the nation state for a demos. "A nation
of citizens must not be confused with a community of fate shaped by
common descent, language and history. This confusion fails to capture
the voluntaristic character of a civic nation, the collective identity
of which exists neither independent of nor prior to the democratic
process from which it springs." (Habermas, 2001) Many activities
of newly emerging nation states, like above all the introduction of
a obligatory and standardized system of education, aimed primarily
at the creation of a nation by the invention of a common history,
common traditions, common cultural values etc. Nations are imagined
communities as Benedict Anderson (1983) has put it.
However, the fact that
national identities are constructed does not mean that they are arbitrary
configurations. Ernest Gellner who devoted much of his life and work
to questions of nation and nationalism pointedly described two different
notions of nation - an essentialist one and a constructivist one -
in order to position himself between these two extremes:
"What then is this
(...) idea of a nation? Discussion of two very makeshift, temporary definitions will
help to pinpoint this elusive concept.
men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture,
where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations
and ways of behaving and communicating.
men are of the same nation if and only if they recognise each other
as belonging to the same nation. In other words nations maketh man;
nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities.
(...) It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind
which turns them into a nation, and not the other shared attributes,
whatever they might be, which separate that category from non members.
of these provisional definitions, the cultural and the voluntaristic,
has some merit. Each
of them singles out an element which is of real importance in the
understanding of nationalism. But neither is adequate." (Ernest Gellner 1983, pp 6-7)
While nationalism constructs
a nation out of cultural bits and pieces that could be combined in
quite another way bringing other results these bits and pieces are
not arbitrary historical inventions. There must be an "elective
affinity" as Seyla Benhabib put it between "the works of
art, the music, the paintings representing a nation and the past history
and anticipated future of a group of men." (Benhabib 1999, 25)
The cultural part of national
collective identities makes them "thick", i.e. not easily
dissolvable. Cultural identity building was part of the process of
political identity building and devolved from the necessity to build
up loyalty in a fragmented society.
"(...) the role of
culture in human life was totally transformed by that cluster of economic
and scientific changes which have transformed the world since the
seventeenth century. The prime role of culture in agrarian society
was to underwrite people's status and people's identity. Its role
was really to embed their position in a complex, usually hierarchical
and relatively stable structure. The world as it is now is one where
people have no stable position or structure. They are members of ephemeral
professional bureaucracies which are not deeply internalised and which
are temporary. They are members of increasingly loose family associations.
What really matters is their incorporation and their mastery of high
culture; I mean a literate codified culture which permits context-free
communication. Their membership of such a community and their acceptability
in it, that is a nation. It is the consequence of the mobility and
anonymity of modern society and of the semantic non-physical nature
of work that mastery of such culture and acceptability in it is the
most valuable possession a man has. It is a precondition of all other
privileges and participation. (...). Moreover, the maintenance of the
kind of high culture, the kind of medium in which society operates,
is politically precarious and expensive. It is linked to the state
as a protector and usually the financier or at the very least the
quality controller of the educational process which makes people members
of this kind of culture." (Ernest Gellner 1995)
To sum up the first part
of this paper:
Out of normative
reasons the demos has to be defined in a way satisfying our understanding
of democracy. This understanding is contingent and changes over time.
Out of functional
reasons individuals have to feel as part of a community in order to
make a community work. Only if I understand myself as belonging to
a society I will be prepared to engage for it and to accept collective
decisions that do not correlate with my individual interests. Within nation states the feeling
of belonging of the individual citizen, the creation of a common identity
has been achieved by the assumption of a common national culture.
Cultural identity constructions of nation states and their political
structure are inextricably intertwined. The
most important link between them is political representation.
2. Representation and
Democracy: An essentially contested relationship
A common perspective on
the relation between democracy and representation is based on a functional
understanding: Democratic representation is necessary in modern mass
democracies as it is obviously not possible for the "demos"
to come together in order to make political decisions. Representatives
have to act for the demos as a whole. As Sternberger (1971) has elaborated
the concept of democratic representation is built up on several assumptions:
axiom of the people: There is a people represented in the representative
institutions. Between the people and its representatives "identity
of will exists or is constructed."
fiction of identification: Representative democracy is only possible
if a representative system can be democratic and a democratic system
can be representative, i. e. if there is an identity of will between
the people and its representative bodies..
topic of modernity: the term "modern representative democracy"
always includes a reference to the direct democracy of antiquity.
Many authors understand representation as an "intentional, ingenious
provision thought up or even invented to make 'democracy' in populous
and vast polities possible and feasible." (Sternberger 1971,
p.10) This understanding of modernity leads to
topic of rationality: Representative institutions are understood as
rationally constructed instruments to reach the democratic goal.
axiom of elections: Democracy as a representative system is legitimated
Obviously, these cornerstones
of representative democracy are in no way clear-cut and unequivocal.
Some of the problems arising here have already be mentioned, others
will appear in later parts of this text. The basic dilemma, however,
lies in the fact that a purely functional understanding of representation
ignores vital features of this concept that is basically a way of
legitimising power. This is why considerations on representation cannot
only be found in democratic polities but also in monarchies. While
in a monarchy the participation of the people in policy making is
not an issue the question why and through which mechanisms the power-holder
is legitimised is of tantamount importance as in democracy. And, as
in democracy, this problem is solved by concepts of representation:
The monarch is the representative of god or of the virtual unity of
In democracies, legitimacy
depends on the political power of the people. Democracy is "government
of the people, by the people, for the people" according to the
famous Gettysburg address of Abraham Lincoln. "The people",
"the demos" is the sovereign of democracy. So, while also in democracy, the
ultimate aim of representation is to legitimate government, representation
now means to make the people present in political acts. But what exactly
is this supposed to mean? The only way of making people present in
a complete way is not to represent them but to bring them together.
If this is not possible the question arises who is represented,
or, more precisely, which qualitities of the represented are assessed
important enough to be represented: their economic interest, their
political aims, their gender, race, class ... It would be short-sighted
to assume that general elections solve these problems as the structures
determining the principles of representation are a pre-condition of
elections. They are part of electoral law, establishing e.g. that
a certain quota for women or ethnic minorities is obligatory, they
also determine if candidates for political institutions have to be
nominated by a political party and according to which principles these
political parties are founded etc.
The second unsolved and
highly disputed question is what a representative should do,
what should happen during representation. Hanna Pitkin (1967) discerns
tow concepts of representation: representation as "standing
for" and as "acting for". "Standing
for" can be translated into "descriptive representation"
or "symbolic representation": Descriptive representation
is understood as a mirror, representing in this concept does not mean
acting for but being like the represented, the representative
assembly should present or reflect the popular opinion. In J. Adams´
(1954, p. 86) poetic formulation: "A representative legislature
should be an exact portrait, in miniature, of the people at large,
as it should think, feel, reason and act like them." In a speech
before the Estates of Provence in 1789 Mirabeau (1834, I p.7) said:
"A representative body is for the nation what a map drawn to
scale is for the physiscal configuration of its land; in part or in
whole the copy must always have the same proportions as the original."
Another way of interpreting
"standing for" is "symbolic representation"
While descriptive representation bears an outward resemblance with
the represented a symbol is assumed to represent hidden or inner qualities
of the represented. Frequently, these inner qualities are rather vague
and loose. A symbol is "an exact reference to something indefinite.
(...) Symbols are not proxy for their objects but are vehicles for the
conception of what they symbolize." (Tindall quoted after Pitkin
1967, p. 97) Symbolic representation thus "concerns not the mere
fact that the represented do accept the representative's decisions
but rather the reasons they have for doing so." (Eulau quoted
after Pitkin 1967, p. 111)
If we understand representing
as "acting for" the question arises if this means
that the representative should do what the represented wants her to
do or that she should do what she thinks to be in the best interest
of the represented. This question points to the conflict around the
legal framework for representation: Should the representative act
according to a mandate or independently? Or, even more fundamentally:
Does the representative really act for concrete people or does she
represent "unattached interests" as Edmund Burke held up
(Pitkin 1967, p. 168)?
Hanna Pitkin's classic
on political representation aimed at a definition of what political
representation should be and her solution was a mixture of
various of the afore mentioned elements: "Representing means
acting in the interests of the represented, in a manner responsive
to them. Thus representation cannot be guaranteed in advance. It is
achieved in a more continuous process, which depends on a level of
responsiveness to the electorate." (209f)
Eulau/Karps (1978) follow
this conception and differentiate four types of responsiveness:
Responsiveness: involves the efforts of the representative to secure
particularized benefits for individuals or groups in his constituency
Responsiveness: refers to the representative´s efforts to obtain benefits
for his constituency through pork-barrel exchanges in the appropriations
process or through administrative interventions.
Responsiveness: involves public gestures of a sort that create a sense
of trust and support in the relationship between represented and representative.
I would like to argue here that a fifth, more general kind of responsiveness
is called for in a democratic system, namely responsiveness with regard
to the types of representation citizens or group of citizens strive
for. "Institutions must not only represent men in the legal/political
sense of acting effectively for them, they must embody the essentials
of the image in which the men of a particular culture recognize themselves
and so, in a sense closer to the aesthetic, represent the beings whose
activities compose them." (Levy 1987: 136).
For many decades, different
groups of people have fought for political representation out of various,
often not clearly defined reasons. To respond to these political struggles
by stating that some of these forms of representation do not correspond
with our understanding of substantive representation seems hardly
adequate. Representation is an "essentially contested concept"
(Gallie 1956) that is a concept about which disagreements can be at
once irresolvable yet rational in nature. According to Gallie there
can be legitimate conflicts over the meaning of concepts such as representation
on the basis of different, but legitimate, criteria for determining
just what something is. The American political theorist, William Connolly,
has advanced Gallie's by stating that essentially contested concepts,
are the rational basis of politics itself. To be involved in a "what
is it?" debate is to be in the midst of a political discussion.
Essential contestability, then, is the defining characteristic of
politics as a rational (in the sense of reasonable) activity, i.e.,
an activity in which for all our disagreements, reason-giving has
a role (See Janik forthcoming)
Disputes about political
representation are thus much more than mere discussions of a democratic
instrument: Assessments on adequate concepts and procedures of representation
always include concepts of man and of society. This is why Edmund
Burke held up that virtual representation is possible, i.e. that a
group that does not elect representatives can be represented by the
representatives of another group with the same interests: He saw interests
as relatively fixed, largely economic, associated with particular
localities and additive. (Pitkin 1967, p. 174) Madison, on the contrary,
along with Bentham saw interests in a much more pluralistic way and
had a negative image of them; Madison understood representation mainly
as a means to control and balance otherwise dangerous social conflicts
(Pitkin 1967, pp.191-195). Marxism makes a distinction between objective
interests and subjective wishes that can be against the individual's
own interest (Pitkin 1967, p. 158) while in utiliarianism each person
is the only reliable measure of its own interest (Pitkin 1967, p.
159). Obviously, these fundamental differences lead to different understandings
of the role of political representation.
E. Voegelin (1991) made
the eminent place of the normative within representation noticeable
by maintaining that existential representation is the realisation
of the idea of institutions. He thereby takes up the concept of the
"idée directrice" developed by M. Hauriou (1929). According
to Hauriou governance is legitimated by representing the "idée
directrice" of a state. This "idée directrice" makes
an unorganised multitude to a politically united nation. The special
function of the ruler is the creation and realisation of this idea
in history. Voegelin understands this concept as follows: "For
being representative it is not enough that a government is representative
in a constitutional sense (descriptive type of representative institutions),
it has also to be representative in an existential sense by realising
the idea of the institution." (Voegelin 1991, pp.57-58)
According to Voegelin
(and also to Hobbes, see above) representation has thus a constitutive
function for society; it is the fact and the form of representation
that is creating society out of the unordered multitude. "Modes
of representation are not relations of mirroring or of references:
Representation does not refer to a pre-given social subject. Modes
of representation subjectify social relations and at the same time
produce political subjects." (Niekant 1999, 41) Differently spoken:
The act of representing creates political subjects and political interests.
Therefore modes of representation are powerful processes which include
domination. Democracy is an antagonistic process, in which identities
and interests are constructed and bargained
and not only 'represented'.
This function of representation
has also been recognised by critics of political representation. "Internal
differences are blurred by the representation of the whole population
by a hegemonic group, race or class. This representative group is
the political agent guaranteeing the effectiveness of the concept
of the nation."(Hardt/Negri 117) The creative and revolutionary
potential of the unstructured multitude is repressed by the representatives.
Representation is thus rather an instrument of suppressing and perverting
the will of people than to translate it into political decisions.
Within this broader and
dialectic understanding of representation political representation
can be seen as one of many ways of a society to represent itself.
"Whose culture shall be the official one and whose shall be subordinated?
What cultures shall be regarded as worthy of display and which shall
be hidden? Whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten?
What images of social life shall be projected and which shall be marginalized?
What voices shall be heard and which be silenced? Who is representing
whom and on what basis?" (Jordan/Weedon 1995, 4) Those are the
question such a broader understanding of representation has to deal
with and answers cannot only be found in political representation
but also in media, the arts, architecture, the contents of school
education etc. Political representation is part of the symbolic framework
a society defines for itself, one form of several to give form to
its ruling ideas.
The ruling idea of early parliamentary
representation was universalism or, more concretely, universal individualism
- although this universalism was confined to a nation state and therefore
the concept of universalism was broken by the concept of identity
as a nation. But within a nation the representation of interests and
the working out of compromises seemed possible as structural differences
between groups of individuals did seemingly not exist. While each
individual is different from each other individual it is at the same
time similar to it in its needs and it has the same rights.
This understanding was contested
by the idea of a deep class antagonism between the owners of the means
of production and the proletariat. Those parts of the worker's movement
who agreed to become part of the representative system were, however,
easily integrated. "(...) as long as social class was regarded
as the pre-eminent group inequality, arguments could divide relatively
neatly between the liberal position, which sought to discount difference
(we should be equal regardless of difference) and the socialist
position which aimed at elimination (we cannot be equal until the
class difference has gone)." (Philips 1995, p. 8) For this discordance
compromises on single issues of social and economic policy had to
This situation changed
when different social and cultural groups came to the fore asserting
their political discrimination due to discrimination in everyday life
and claiming special political rights especially in the field of representation.
While these demands were formulated parallely to the movement for
a "representation of labour" in the 19th century
there is a fundamental difference in that these new movements reflect
different inequalities than social class, namely usually differences
for which elimination is neither a viable nor a desirable solution.
(Philips 1995, p. 8) The similarity to class representation is however
the fact that the claim for representation includes many different,
often not sufficiently unfolded arguments, namely:
collectively mediated experiences
effects on status of group
effects on aspirations
legitimacy of institution
Equal right to represent
to participate in public decision-making
not to be discriminated against by structures of public life
increase pool of talent
Meanings of Political Representation (Sawer 2000, 362)
Probably the first ones
to fight for more adequate ways of representation were feminists holding
that gendered biases of society have become operative in the political
sphere, that differences between men and women in the social sphere
had an impact on the political sphere. This assumption triggered debates
on the question if and how social inequality and differences, for
example gender difference, can be politically represented. Feminists
(as well as many representatives of ethnic minorities) have understood
representing difference as a mechanism to make visible and to represent
marginalised social groups. Political difference also is a heuristic
tool to criticise the particularism of a male (or white) universalism.(Benhabib
1996, p. 5) The question then is how social differences in experience,
needs and interests can be politically represented - represented in
a way that these differences do not result in political inequality.
Neither feminist standpoint theories nor republican feminists have
fund satisfactory solutions for the tension between equity and difference;
their answers are biased towards one or the other side of this dualism.
Feminist standpoint theories aim at integrating female "otherness"
(= different needs and values of women resulting from different social
experiences) into the political. In this way, the political system
shall be feminised and liberated from its masculine features. (see
e.g. Hartsock 1983) Republican feminism, on the other hand, refers
to Hanna Arendt's argument that the political is a separated sphere
with its own laws and dignity that cannot be deduced from other spheres,
and certainly not from the private sphere and not- public experiences.
Similar controversial arguments can be found in debates on the representation
of ethnic minorities.
If we try a second interim
summary of what has been said up to now it becomes clear that our
question for collective identity and its adequate political representation
touches at core concepts and vital questions of philosophy and political
theory. Even more importantly, it is closely related to individual
and collective values, to people's personal and political worldviews
that changed considerably at the turn from modernity to post-modernity
while forms of representation did not change considerably: The institutional
arrangements of representative democracies have been amazingly stable
over the last 250 years despite the massive socio-economic changes
our societies experienced. But maybe it is precisely this stability,
this inertia of a political system that enhances the disenchantment
citizens are experiencing with regard to politics. Political representation
has been structured by political parties for about 150 years, and
the most important and largest of these parties still represent above
all class differences that have lost their impact on people's lives
decades ago. Furthermore, the distance between political parties and
the citizenship has constantly grown; parties are no longer mediators
between civil society and political system, they have become part
of the political system. (Katz/Mair 1995) While parties continue to
recruit elites for public posts and to organise election campaigns,
they whither in their role of important actors engaged in tasks such
as the aggregation of defined interests, the formulation of achievable
goals, the negotiation of political compromises, the intermediation
between political elites and citizens. Thus, policy-making based on
the representation of interests appeared as being more and more substituted
by technocratic, output-oriented politics, while legitimacy through
input was ever more neglected.
The emergence of a new
polity on the European level gives us the chance to work on new possible
ways of political representation within the EU. Theoretical insights
as well as our experiences within the national framework should help
us to identify elements for such a new structure although our considerations
up to now have clearly shown that a perfect solution for the many
inherent problems of political representation is neither theoretically
nor practically possible.
3. Towards a European
But who is the demos
of the European Union? There are some voices, especially in the German
EU-debate, claiming that a European demos cannot emerge as a demos
has to be a culturally homogenous people and the EU's population is
not such a group (Kirchof 1994, p. 59) However, this "no-demos"-thesis
does not correspond with the understanding of identities as developed
within this paper. Democracy needs the idea of commonality (not sameness)
and universality, which is representable and which can be represented.
But this commonality must not be built up of cultural factors as in
the nation state.
The European Commission
has tried to find a new way of defining a common cultural identity
by understanding political values as basis of a common culture:
(5) If citizens give their
full support to, and participate fully in, European integration, greater
emphasis should be placed on their common cultural values and roots
as a key element of their identity and their membership of a society
founded on freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity; a better
balance should be achieved between the economic and cultural aspects
of the Community, so that these aspects can complement and sustain
each other. (Decision establishing Culture 2002, 1)
This seems an interesting,
not essentialist and open concept of identity. It has, however, two
1. By defining political
values - freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity - as the fundamentals
of a common European identity an essential concept of cultural identity
as given by common ethnic roots is avoided but, at the same time,
those political values are essentialised. They are not understood
as dynamic concepts, continually developing and changing according
to conflicting interests but as a kind of static quality a political
community has or does not have. As the Croatian writer Boris Buden
wrote with respect to the perception of the Balkans in Western Europe:
"A society which is still involved in political fights with unforeseeable
outcome is not simply a society with specific political problems but
a society of the "uncivilised world". (Buden 1998, 4) In
this understanding, freedom, democracy, tolerance and solidarity are
not political values of a community (or a community-to-be like the
EU) that are defined and re-defined in constant political struggles
(see e.g. Laclau/ Mouffe 1985) but clearly defined qualities you need
to be part of this community, a mechanism of inclusion and exclusion
instead of a field of discourse.
2. Secondly and paradoxically,
the institutional structures of the EU itself do not really meet these
values propagated by the European Commission as common European values
- at least if we understand those values not only as part of political
ideas, of cultural values but also as political practice. (Obviously,
this problem is closely linked to the first one: When political concepts
are understood as part of a common, traditional culture, implementation
into practice does not seem necessary.) But democracy remains an empty
catchword if it is not translated into concrete political structures.
If we thus argue that the common base of the "peoples of Europe"
can be considered the shared political values of the Union as enshrined
in its basic constituent documents (Weiler 1995: 1685) this base has
to be constituted, developed and affirmed within a European public
sphere where collective problems, political concepts and solutions
can be discussed. But the current modes of political decision making,
especially its high degree of intransparency, hamper the development
of such a European public sphere.
The public sphere in modern, large
and multiply structured societies can only be understood as the sum
of differentiated partial public spheres. This does not only hold
true for the European Union but also for national public spheres.
This is why the European diversity of languages or the impossibility
of simultaneous communication are not a real impediment of a European
public sphere - national public spheres do not work directly, either.
(see Gerhards/Neidhardt 1991) The main question is how to interest
potential participants of a European public sphere, how to make understood
the enormous impact European decisions have on individual lives as
well as social structures, and how to create loyalties on the European
level (which do not have to compete with national loyalties but can
complement them in many ways.)
The creation of a European
public sphere is first and foremost not a technical problem (of e.g.
creating a European TV-programme) but it is a question of contents
that can be discussed, shared, and contested by the European citizens
- in short: It is a question of politics and especially political
representation. If we maintain that as in the case of nation states
a collective identity is not a pre-supposition of the emerging of
a new polity but that those two parts of a political community develop
parallely then we should focus on the creation of democratic, transparent
and adequate political structures in order to create both a democratically
working polity and a European public sphere.
Current developments of
the EU give the impression that the European political elite has understood
the need for a thorough political reformation of the Union. This is
why the question of a European constitution has become a central point
of European discourse and why a convention has been chosen as the
adequate way to reach such a constitution. The Irish "No"
to the Treaty of Nice has been another proof for the declining permissive
consensus of European citizens to European integration. Not only has
the bargaining of national interests in a intergovernmental conference
once again shown its limited capacity of solving problems of the Union
but it also has become obvious that European citizens are not longer
willing to accept blindly the decisions of the European heads of government
for the fate of Europe. The convention seems an adequate answer of
the European governments to the combination of interest for a closer
political integration of Europe with a widespread scepticism with
regard to the existing institutions of the Union. The fact that the
candidate states are represented in the convention seemingly acknowledges
the importance of including these states into far reaching decisions
about the future of the EU.
Two issues seem of paramount
importance for the future of the EU:
to now the structure of the Union is much too complex and not transparent
enough to create public discourse on and within it. A clear cut basic
structure that can be easily mediated has therefore to be constitutionalised
in order to create a European public sphere. Although the EU will
always remain a complex polity and the individual citizen cannot be
expected to interest herself for all procedural details the overall
aim and the overall structure of the EU has to become clear to her.
order to become interested in European affairs European citizens have
to get some influence on these affairs. Most relevant decisions in
the EU are made by the Council of the European Union and the European
Council both of which are not directly elected by the citizens. The
concrete shape of many policies is decided in the European Commission
that is either not elected and specified through the so-called comitology,
a highly intransparent process. So, obviously, reforms have to focus
on the European Parliament as the only directly elected organ of the
EU. Up to now, the decision-making-powers of the EP are too limited
to make it a fully developed parliament. Furthermore, elections procedures
for the EP are less than satisfying: European citizens vote according
to different national procedures and they do not vote for the parties
their MEP represent within the EP but for the national parties the
MEP belong to in the nation state. The low turnout of EP-elections
and the fact that those elections are usually fought over national
and not European subjects are other indications for the problems of
political representation through this institution. The definition
of the whole EU as an integrated constituency for EP elections where
a uniform electoral law applies and a dramatic increase of co-decision
power for the EP are thus without any doubt a necessary pre-requisite
for an emerging European polity.
A constitution and a strengthened
parliament are necessary but not sufficient pre-conditions for a European
public sphere and thus for a lively European democracy. If the European
Union shall succeed as a political project, i.e. if its existence
is to make a difference for European politics than it has to be more
than a poorer version of the nation state on a trans-national level.
As Gilbert Weiss (forthcoming) put
it tying up to Voegelin, an idée directrice for the EU is necessary
to make it a representative political system. Up to now, the discussions
of the convention do not give much hope that such an idea, such a
vision will be developed within this institution. Representatives
of national governments fight for their national advantages instead
of developing competing concepts for the development of Europe. Sometimes,
it seems as if a political determination to build up Europe while
doubtlessly having been part of the political programme of the founding
fathers of European Integration is lacking in the current political
agents of the EU. (Barnavi 2002, 90)
But maybe there are other agents
more willing or able to develop such a vision. Maybe intellectuals,
academia are the right people to take this part - this conference
in Krakow could be a case in point. But the enthusiasm of a very small
intellectual elite for European integration will not suffice to make
it a representative polity. So, it is perhaps our task to create a
European public sphere, to start disputes on European matters in which
not national or regional egotisms are the driving forces but different
ideas of what this Europe should be.
4. A personal vision for Europe
So, allow me at the end of this paper
to change its focus from mainly theoretical considerations on political
representation to some highly normative and very personal ideas on
the polity this Europe could or should become.
The Europe I wish for would be one
that makes a difference for those at the margins of their respective
national societies, for cultural minorities - for Albanians in Italy,
Africans in Austria, Roma and Sinti in Bulgaria - but as well for
people discriminated because of their gender, their sexual orientation,
their religious beliefs ...
The Europe I wish for would be one
that knows of all parts of political representation and takes them
into account in its structural considerations. As mentioned before,
this implies a stronger parliament with clearer links to its electorate
but this will not be enough. It will be even not enough to take care
of as many as possible different interests- be they nationally, regionally,
by party affiliation or otherwise defined. To recognize the different
aspects of political representation means to take into consideration
which impact it would have on the political interest of women to see
a political assembly consisting of 50% women or to consider the symbolic
value a Rom in the EP would have for a minority that has been deprived
of its political rights for centuries.
The Europe I wish for would, however,
also in its other forms of representation pay specific attention to
those to whom usually no specific attention is paid to. And it would
recognize that political representation is a necessary but not sufficient
condition of democracy and would complement it with dispute, with
deliberation, with support for a vivid and controversial media and
culture landscape creating many different public spaces. It would
continue the debate on the future of Europe it launched after the
intergovernmental conference at Nice and do its utmost to broaden
and deepen it, to include all those who will not automatically take
part in such a debate, to use all media and to tackle various issues
of impact on this theme.
Finally, the Europe I wish for would
be a deliberate part of globalisation. It would not replace nationalism
by an even more artificial "Europeanism" but it would defend
its most important political achievement of the last 150 years, the
European social state. It would not do so by stubbornly conserving
existing structures but by developing new concepts to safeguard old
values - and developing them in close co-operation with those actually
concerned. Maybe in the form Pierre Bourdieu proposed, in co-operation
with new social movements, trade unions and intellectuals. Maybe in
another form and with other partners. - Democracy, as I said at the
beginning of this paper, is a way of organising power, of structuring
a society. If democracy is true to its own normative content, then
it is a dynamic, process-oriented, open way to do so. Only in this
way it can take care of the complex, constantly shifting and reorganising
identities of its citizens and translate them into adequate mechanisms
of political representation.
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