Can public and voluntary acts of consent confer legitimacy on the EU?

Ulgen, Ozlem (2019) Can public and voluntary acts of consent confer legitimacy on the EU? In: The Euro-Crisis as a Multi-Dimensional Systemic Failure of the EU: the Crisis Behind the Crisis. Cambridge University Press, UK.

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Legitimacy is essential for any polity that seeks to exert law-making authority over its people. Although the EU is not a single state it is a polity that has to obtain legitimacy for its power to make laws affecting some 500 million people across 28 member states (soon to be 27 pending UK exit). And yet in the eyes of EU citizens the Eurozone crisis and Brexit vote call into question the EU’s legitimacy as it cannot guarantee prosperity for all its peoples or shield against economic and political uncertainty. There is growing unease and disaffection among southern EU states’ voters, and divisions between core/peripheral member states, with emerging alternative popular representation structures (e.g. Podemos in Spain) and reappraisal of the EU among pro-EU politicians (e.g. British leftwing). In this context, “core” member state refers to the advanced economies and strong democracies including the original founding members (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), and new members from the enlargement period 1973 to 1995 (Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Greece Portugal, Spain, Austria, Finland, Sweden). “Peripheral” member state denotes the southern, central, eastern European states that joined from 2004 onwards (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia). Added to this is a lack of debate and public awareness of what the EU stands for and its practical benefits. It is, therefore, important to understand how legitimacy is (or is not) created and maintained in the EU.

A form of legitimacy may be conferred by EU citizens engaging in public and voluntary acts of consent. These are acts taken by individuals and groups which may confer legitimacy on the law-making authority of an entity (e.g. voting in European Parliamentary elections; national referendums on EU matters). Political theorists, such as Beetham, have explored public and voluntary acts of consent in the context of understanding how state power is legitimised. Using Beetham’s “normative structure of legitimacy”, especially the third component of “expressed consent”, this chapter considers whether public and voluntary acts of consent may confer legitimacy on the EU. Part I explores the relevance of Beetham’s “normative structure of legitimacy” under the criteria of rule-based validity, justifiability of power rules, and expressed consent. Part II evaluates expressed consent in three types of public and voluntary acts of consent: national referendums, with particular reference to the UK Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016, and Greek bailout referendum of 5 July 2015; the European Citizens’ Initiative under Article 11(4) TEU; and civil society engagement under Article 11(2) TEU.

Item Type: Book Section
6 December 2017Accepted
31 July 2019Published
Uncontrolled Keywords: consent; legitimacy; EU; Beetham; Eurozone; European Parliament;
Subjects: CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > College of Law, Social and Criminal Justice
Depositing User: Ozlem Ulgen
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2018 11:30
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:54

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