Legitimacy, Democracy and Diversity in the European Union

Peter A. Kraus

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Taking the European Union’s motto as its point of departure, the paper argues that even in a Europe in which the historical record seems to have made important segments of the citizenry relatively immune to the temptations of a relapse into an exacerbated nationalism, to be “united in diversity” in a substantial sense requires much more than a combination of good will and sophisticated constitutional engineering. While celebrating diversity in very broad and abstract terms, Europe’s constitutional process has failed to specify the concept’s proper meaning in the context of transnational polity-building. First, the impact that diversity has on Europe’s political architecture is assessed, maintaining that the EU can be conceived of as a multinational polity that combines consociational and federal elements; it may also be considered, to some extent, to constitute a post-sovereign order, which departs from former models of national integration. At the same time, however, the politics of diversity in the Union is largely constrained by the dynamics of intergovernmentalism. This entails two major problems: biased recognition and a deficient input legitimacy. Their interplay is leading to a situation in which neither deeper political unity is achieved nor diversity properly protected. The paper finally claims that overcoming this impasse will be contingent upon a constitutional politics which actively confronts the task of redefining the basis of a common European citizenship without violating diversity.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Kraus, Peter A. Legitimacy, Democracy and Diveristy in the European Union. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2006, vol.8, no.2, pp. 203-224. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol8/issue2/art4

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