Studies in EU Reform and Enlargement series
Edited by Dieter Fuchs and Hans-Dieter Klingemann
Chapter 2: Cultural Diversity, European Identity and Legitimacy of the EU: A Theoretical Framework
Dieter Fuchs 2.1 Outline of the Problem Ever since the European Community (EC) was established, questions have been raised concerning the legitimacy of the new political entity and its subsequent transformation. The debate over legitimacy can be subdivided into three phases (Holzinger 2005, p. 90). These phases differ in terms of who has placed the legitimacy question on the agenda and how this is done. During the first phase, which lasted until the Treaty of Maastricht (1992), the legitimacy question was debated exclusively by political elites. For, even in the days preceding Maastricht, the development of the EC was characterized by a successive ‘pooling … and delegation of sovereignty to supranational institutions’ (Rittberger 2005, p. 5). Yet the transfer of sovereignty was not accompanied by the institutionalization of mechanisms of democratic accountability and control comparable to those which existed in EC member states. This led political elites to raise questions regarding a democratic deficit and a legitimacy deficit in the new intergovernmental regime. The debate never reached the public sphere, however, nor did it become relevant to the field of scientific research. The dominant perception of public and scholarly actors was that the EC derived its legitimacy from its successful performance in securing peace in Europe and the increase in economic welfare for all member states. Another source of legitimacy postulated in this phase was indirect democratic legitimization of the EC due to the mediating presence of the democratic member states. This situation changed after the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) which...
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