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Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities

Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities
Author: Vivien A. Schmidt
ISBN 13: 9780199266982
ISBN 10: 199266980
Edition: 1
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2006-12-07
Format: Paperback
Pages: 328
List Price: $48.95

Democracy in Europe is about the impact of European integration on national democracies. It argues that the oft-cited democratic deficit is indeed a problem, but not so much at the level of the European Union per se as at the national level. This is because national leaders and publics have yet to come to terms with the institutional impact of the EU on the traditional workings of their national democracies.

The book begins with a discussion of what the EU is-a new form of 'regional state' in which sovereignty is shared, boundaries are variable, identity composite, and democracy fragmented. It then goes on to examine the effects of this on EU member-states' institutions and ideas about democracy, finding that institutional 'fit' matters. The 'compound' EU, in which governing activity is highly dispersed among multiple authorities, is more disruptive to 'simple' polities like Britain and France, where governing activity has traditionally been more concentrated in a single authority, than to similarly 'compound' polities like Germany and Italy.

But the book concludes that the real problem for member-states is not so much that their practices have changed as that national ideas and discourse about democracy have not. The failure has been one of the 'communicative' discourse to the general public-which again has been more pronounced for simple polities, despite their potentially greater capacity to communicate through a single voice, than for compound polities, where the 'coordinative' discourse among policy actors predominates.