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The normative origins of democracy in the European Union: toward a transformationalist theory of democratization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2010

Frank Schimmelfennig*
Affiliation:
Center for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract

Institutional democratization has made considerable progress in the history of the European Union (EU). Mainstream theories of democratization, however, fail to capture this process because they are wedded to the nation-state context. This paper therefore proposes a transformationalist theory of democratization beyond the state. EU democratization results from the conflict about the redistribution of political competences between institutional actors in a multilevel system, in which liberal democracy is the shared norm of legitimate authority. To the extent that institutional actors, who push for further integration in order to increase efficiency, undermine existing democratic institutions at the national level, their competitors can put into question the legitimacy of integration by invoking the shared liberal democratic community norms and shame them into making democratic concessions. The normative origins of democracy in the EU are illustrated in case studies on democratic membership conditionality, legislative rights of the European Parliament, and the institutionalization of human rights in the EU.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2010

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