Workshop on Multi-level Democracy

Dates:  Thursday October 30th – Friday October 31st, 2014
Place: VU University, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
Contact person: Ben Crum & Rik de Ruiter


Additional Information

Click here for the program. 



Katrin Auel (Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna) - De-Parliamentarisation re-considered: Parliamentary communication in EU affairs



While long accepted, even taken for granted, as the core institutions within our systems of representative democracy, the ability of national parliaments to represent citizens adequately has increasingly come under question. Within the context of the EU, the debates focus mainly on the so-called ‘de-parliamentarisation thesis’. According to the standard diagnosis, the process of European integration has led to the transfer of large areas of decision-making from the national arena to the EU level, resulting in a loss of legislative competences for national legislatures, who have no direct control over European policy-making. The paper argues that this diagnosis remains incomplete because it underestimates – even ignores – the importance of parliamentary communication for democratic representation as a precondition for political accountability and as the embodiment of the fundamental principle of equality. Based on data on EU plenary debates, the paper argues that national parliaments do not live up to their task of communicating EU politics to the citizens. Despite an increase in the politicisation of EU politics in the plenaries, especially in the context of the eurozone crisis, the lack of parliamentary communication on EU issues remains one of the most important aspects of deparliamentarisation and of parliamentary representation in the EU.


Olivier Costa (Sciences Po Bordeaux) - The parliamentarization of the EU: An assessment after the 2014 elections



Ben Crum (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) - EU parliamentarism as a “multilevel parliamentary field”



This talk explores the claim that parliamentary sovereignty in the European Union is not embodied in a single institution but remains essentially dispersed across the European level and across the whole range of national parliaments. Thus, in notable contrast to established national systems, the parliamentary structure of the EU lacks a clear hierarchy because the lower, national tier retains in crucial respects a stronger claim to democratic legitimacy than the overarching, supranational tier. The talk offers an analytical sketch of the structure of democratic representation in the EU and seeks to spell out the key traits that distinguish this kind of multilevel democracy and the radical implications they have for the very idea of democracy in the EU context. In the second part it introduces the concept of the ‘multilevel parliamentary field’ to chart parliamentary behaviour in the EU and uses this notion to illustrate the distinctive ways in which democratic representation operates in the EU.



John Eric Fossum (ARENA, Oslo) - EU democracy in light of different conceptions of the EU political system




This chapter discusses the main democratic principles that figure at the centre of today’s debate on the European Union in order to shed light on the EU’s democratic deficit. In addition we seek to establish the democratic effects of the crisis within the EU context. The EU is a complex and composite entity. There is no agreement on the kind of polity it is; neither is there agreement on what democratic standards we can rely on to evaluate its democratic character and quality. We therefore identify the main focal points of debate, the main democratic principles that figure within each of these focal points, and what the proponents under each focal point say about the EU’s democratic deficit. As part of this unpacking of the large and rather inchoate debate on democracy in the multilevel EU we ask what the proponents under each focal point say about how and in what sense the crisis has affected the contents and perhaps even the terms of this debate.


Katjana Gattermann (University of Cologne) - News about the European Parliament: Patterns and external drivers of broadsheet coverage




Few political communication studies deal with the European Parliament during nonelection times even though it takes decisions in a wide range of policy areas. This study examines the patterns and external drivers of European Parliament broadsheet coverage by analysing 2155 articles from six European Union countries during a routine period (2005–2007). Generally, it finds that the European Parliament receives regular coverage. However, developments in the domestic context also influence European Parliament news coverage. Public support for the European Union increases the number of reports about the European Parliament. While national elections do not compromise its news coverage, higher levels of party political contestation over the European Union and trust towards the national parliament lead to lower coverage. The implications are discussed with reference to the European Parliament’s democratic legitimacy.


Christopher Lord (ARENA, Oslo) - An indirect legitimacy argument for a directly elected European parliament




It has been argued that a directly elected European Parliament is redundant to the democratic legitimacy of the European Union, since the EU is a composite of national democracies that has no demos of its own (Majone 2005). This paper argues, to the contrary and perhaps counter-intuitively, a directly elected European Parliament can contribute to delivering standards of indirect legitimacy by which the Union can be legitimate with national demoi. I first argue that the EU is best understood as indirectly legitimate where it helps member states meet their own obligations to their own publics. I then show that the input and output conditions for indirect legitimacy, thus understood, are likely to be difficult to deliver simultaneously. I finally argue that, where a directly elected European Parliament can help resolve that predicament, it can be justified as contributing to the indirect legitimacy of the Union.


Johannes Pollak (Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna; Webster University, Vienna) - Hunting the Snark: Colliding, colluding, confusing modes of representation in the European Union



Rik de Ruiter (Leiden University) - Under the radar? National parliaments and the ordinary legislative procedure in the European Union




This study aims to bring together insights from scholars working on the ordinary legislative procedure with research on national parliaments and European Union (EU) affairs. It is assumed that members of national parliaments – when choosing directives in negotiation at the EU level in need of scrutiny – are confronted with variation in information processing costs, as well as in benefits in terms of policy influence and votes. Hypotheses are formulated on how the cost– benefit calculus can influence the scrutiny of directives agreed upon through the ordinary legislative procedure. An analysis of parliamentary activity in the Dutch and British lower houses on 293 directives indicates that directives which are longer in negotiation at the EU level, on which explanatory memoranda are published, receive media attention and are concluded without informal trilogues in second/third reading, are more scrutinized.


Wolfgang Wessels (University of Cologne) - Opportunities and constraints for a multilevel parliamentarism: Models of multilevel parliamentary cooperation


In this talk, Prof. Wolfgang Wessels outlines the opportunities and, importantly, constraints he sees for multilevel parliamentary cooperation in the European Union. While manifold theoretical models demand for and different practical arenas suggest an increased cooperation between the European Parliament and national parliaments, the actors involved seem to be hesitant. Firstly, a lack of positive incentives might account for this reluctance. Secondly, both national parliaments as well as the EP claim for themselves to grant democratic legitimacy to the political system and to represent the electorate. Therefore, while fora of cooperation such as COSAC or interparliamentary conferences allow for discussion and exchange of views, multilevel parliamentary cooperation has not yet been established on substantial grounds. In this respect, academia should not merely analyse existent forms of cooperation on empirical grounds, but also answer normative questions as to the need for multilevel Parliamentarism in a democratically legitimate EU political system.


Thomas Winzen (ETH, Zurich) - Why national parliaments react to European integration




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