Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law
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Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law

Edited by Adam Lazowski and Steven Blockmans

Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law offers a critical look into the European Union: its legal foundations, competences and institutions. It provides an analysis of the EU legal system, its application at the national level and the prevalent role of the Court of Justice. Throughout the course of the Handbook the expert contributors discuss whether the European Union is well equipped for the 21st century and the numerous crises it has to handle. They revisit the call for an EU reform made in the Laeken Conclusions in 2001 to verify if its objectives have been achieved by the Treaty of Lisbon and in daily practice of the EU institutions. The book also delves into the concept of a Europe of different speeds, which - according to some - is inevitable in the EU comprising 28 Member States. Overall, the assessment of the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is positive, even if there are plenty of suggestions for further reforms to re-fit the EU for purpose.
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Chapter 6: The democratic foundations of the Union: representative democracy, complementarity and the legal challenge of Article 11 TEU

Joana Mendes


Democracy is, to a certain extent, a counter-intuitive principle in the context of European integration. From the outset, European integration has been an elite-driven process, and only since 1992 has the public debate on the democratic legitimacy of the Union gained clear prominence. However, legitimacy, including democratic legitimacy, has been a longstanding concern, also for the Communities that preceded the Union. The authority of the institutions carrying forth the project of European integration – anchored to a large extent in the limitation of the sovereignty of Member States and shaping the legal sphere of their nationals – ought to be underpinned by specific sources of legitimacy. Analogies with sources of legitimacy of public authority within the state were of limited use. True, the democratic structures that have developed within the state remained an unavoidable and influential reference. But such analogies also led to the inevitable verification of a ‘gap […] between the democratic foundations of the Member States and the reality of [the Union]’ that ‘allow[ed] all contestation’. If we are to claim some form of democratic legitimacy underpinning the powers the EU institutions exercise under the Treaties, what are and what can be its sources? This question has been at the core of the debate on the democratic credentials of the Union. At the Treaty level, the principle of democracy was enshrined by the Treaty of Maastricht.

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