This book addresses the question of political legitimacy in the European Union from the much-neglected angle of political responsibility. It develops an original communitarian approach to legitimacy based on Alasdair MacIntyre's ethics of virtues and practices, that can be contrasted with prevalent liberal-egalitarian and neo-republican approaches. The book argues that a ‘responsibility deficit’, quite distinct from the often discussed ‘democratic deficit’, can be diagnosed in the EU. This is documented in chapters that provide in-depth analysis of accountability, transparency and the difficulties associated with identifying responsibility in European governance. Closing this gap requires going beyond institutional engineering. It calls for gradual convergence towards certain core social and political practices and for the flourishing of the virtues of political responsibility in Europe's nascent political community. Throughout the book, normative political theory is brought to bear on concrete dilemmas of institutional choice faced by the EU during the recent constitutional debates.
This introductory chapter begin with a discussion of the resignation of the Santer Commission. On 19 March 1999, for the first time in the history of the European project, the twenty-member College of Commissioners resigned before the end of its term. This took place under the presidency of the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jacques Santer, after the submission to the European Parliament of a Report by a Committee of Independent Experts, working under the auspices of the Parliament and the Commission, which substantiated allegations of fraud, mismanagement and nepotism. If the EU fails in terms of responsibility to the extent implied by the Committee's report, it is necessary to understand why and how this came to be and why it is important that the problem should be dealt with. What exactly is political responsibility, why is it an important feature in any system of governance, and why should its absence trouble us? Finally, it is necessary to think about what can be done about it and what needs to change if the problem is to be addressed. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
This chapter provides an account of why the EU system of governance presents such serious shortcomings in terms of political responsibility. It starts by going through the principal theories of European integration, in an effort to see what kinds of explanation could be derived from them with regard to the EU's alleged failures of political responsibility. Neo-functionalist, liberal intergovernmentalis and new institutionalist approaches are shown to yield different accounts. By adopting a historical-sociological institutionalist framework, the chapter goes on to show, more specifically, why the problems of political responsibility in the EU emerged: it looks at the legacy of Jean Monnet, whose ideas and methods for European integration exerted a strong influence upon the building of Europe. The main question that is addressed is whether there was something in Monnet's system of thought and action that could have caused problems for the development of political responsibility in the EU, insofar as the rationale behind his approach was influential in the building of the Union.
This chapter shows what political responsibility refers to and why political responsibility is desirable in all systems of governance, including the EU. The two main ways in which political responsibility is understood—that is, as a set of qualities (or virtues) and as a feature or an organising principle of a system of governance are examined and the relationship that binds them is explored. It is shown that these are only two different aspects of the same phenomenon: political responsibility is a principle that calls for certain requirements to be met in an ongoing practice of governance and these requirements are placed upon both political agents and political institutions. In other words, political responsibility is a principle of legitimate governance that refers both to how political agents should act and to how political institutions should be set up. Political responsibility is a desirable feature for every practice of governance because it enables the achievement of predictability, order and stability. Before discussing political responsibility as a requirement upon agency as well as upon institutions of governance, the chapter first provides an account of the relationship between institutions and agency.
This chapter examines accountability as a sub-practice of EU governance. It first distinguishes between political and other forms of accountability, then tries to spell out the basic rationale behind political accountability and examine what we do—and do not do—when we hold someone to account. Next, it is shown that in order for accountability to be effective, the institutional structure in a system of governance must meet two requirements: what we will call ‘check’ and ‘forum’. The second part of the chapter examines the extent to which the requirements of accountability are being met in the EU, taking into account recent developments in the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty.
Identifiability is a feature of the organisation of political institutions which ensures that the following question can always be answered in the operation of a system of governance: who was responsible? This is an important political question—especially when things go wrong. If it cannot be answered, accountability is rendered impossible. It is therefore important to explore how we go about answering the identifiability question. This chapter presents two accounts of how one is to answer: the ‘causal’ and ‘institutional’ accounts. It argues that the causal account runs into trouble when confronted with the problem of ‘many hands’. The institutional account is more helpful despite the fact that it runs up against the problem of ‘personification’.
This chapter first explores the relationship between openness and what it is meant to foster, political judgement. Then it examines the limits of openness: whether all information relevant to the formation of political judgement should always be made available, or whether there are situations in which limitations are called for. Next, it explores the institutional requirements that must be met if the mechanism of openness is to be effective; reference is made to the presumption of openness and the establishment of exceptions, as well as to provisions for transparency. Finally, the EU system of governance is examined from the point of view of openness and transparency.
In seeking to reach a verdict for the EU's responsibility deficit, this chapters attempts to summarise findings and evaluate the current state of affairs by looking at three interrelated questions. First, what can we make of the current shortcomings of responsibility on the institutional side after having examined the EU from the point of view of accountability, identifiability and openness? Second, how do recent developments, and particularly the failure to ratify the Constitutional Treaty and the agreement to forge ahead with the Lisbon Treaty, affect our assessment? Finally, what might be the long-term effects of the latest developments for the deep rooted Monnet conception of legitimate ‘responsible technocratic’ governance?