CLEER WP 2011/2 - Hoeksma
The EU as a democratic polity in international law
The process of European integration that started after World War II, has not resulted in the creation of a new State. It has, nevertheless, contributed to an unprecedented spread of democratic governance on the European continent.
While the initial impetus may be ascribed to the activities of the Council of Europe, founded in 1949 with a view to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the European Communities (EC) and their successor the European Union (EU) have been and will continue to play an essential role in the process. The ambition of the EC, as an organisation for economic cooperation, was limited to the promotion of democracy at the level of the member states. As a political entity, however, the EU also aspires to be a democracy of its own. The Lisbon Treaty signifies a major development in this respect as it places the functioning of the EU upon the principle of representative democracy, while it simultaneously emphasizes the sovereignty of the member states. The paradoxical outcome of the process of European integration is therefore that the EU has not become a state and yet forms a democracy. The purpose of the present essay is to analyse how the European Union has gradually evolved into a democratic polity of states and citizens. By combining the disciplines of international law and political theory, the analysis provides ample arguments for the conclusion that, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU may be described as a Union of democratic states based on the rule of law, which also constitutes a law-based democracy of its own.