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The “disenfranchisement” of the European Citizens

The “disenfranchisement” of the European Citizens

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The “disenfranchisement” of the European Citizens
The “disenfranchisement” of the European Citizens

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05/13/2014

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The “disenfranchisement” of the European citizens
 
It seems that something will indeed go bust soon. The "threads of legitimacy of politicaldecisions" in Europe are pulled "tightly enough to break, and things are squeaking andcrunching everywhere," says European parliamentarian Lambsdorff. Many politiciansand experts on Europe in the member states hold similar views. The Germanphilosopher and avowed European Jürgen Habermas warns of a "disenfranchisement ofEuropean citizens." And the European Reflection Group, a team of academics andpolitical thinkers chaired by Spain's Felipe González, is appealing to politicians in allcountries, saying: "We will only overcome the challenges which lie ahead if all of us --politicians, citizens, employers and employees -- are able to pull together with a newcommon purpose defined by the needs of the current
age. … In spite of all the EU's
past achievements there is a worrying indifference, if not disenchantment, towards theEuropean project. We can no longer ignore this challenge."Only very few citizens in Europe can comprehend what is happening to them. The EuroGroup, the German-French crisis meetings, the G-20, the International Monetary Fund(IMF) and the troika are making decisions about peace, freedom and prosperity, butwho exactly voted for them? Who can even understand the reasoning behind the latestattempts to cope with the crisis?There is growing support on the continent -
but not people support, only the elite wants’
it in fact - for González's view that only a united Europe, with politicians in Brussels withthe power to get things done, can avert the next crisis, offset the economic and socialimbalances within the EU and counter speculators on the financial markets. And it willonly be possible to implement policies set by Brussels in the nations of the EU if it has acommon, sustainable, democratic basis on the entire continent.
Many see the crisis as an opportunity 
For Europe veteran Javier Solana, 69, it represents "the chance to make a great leapforward" -- the venture of bringing more democracy to Europe. This, says Solana, aformer NATO secretary general and subsequent EU foreign policy chief, is the only wayto achieve "true political integration."Solana describes how this can happen in his classes at Esade Geo, a private Madridand Barcelona business school, and in lectures around the world. In the opinion of theman known worldwide for his three-day beard, this great leap can even work without
 
massive restructuring. Instead of erecting new buildings and installing newgovernments, Solana believes the EU should take a simpler approach, which he calls"legitimacy through action."
The Crisis of Legitimacy
 All of Europe is stuck in a crisis of legitimacy. The democratic credibility of the Europeanproject was intact as long as it was successful, and as long as citizens could marvel at -- or, like the Spaniards, benefit from -- the added value of the decisions being madeabove their heads."Federalize their wallets and their hearts and minds will follow," said James Madison,the father of the American Constitution. These words also apply to the Old World. Thedemocracy scholars of the 21
st
century call it "output legitimacy."It was easy to achieve legitimacy through action as long as things were constantlyimproving for everyone. But now, in the crisis, hardship prevails. "The checks made outfor integration, solidarity and democracy by the political ruling class were only backedby output legitimacy," says Hauke Brunkhorst, a professor of sociology in the northernGerman city of Flensburg. The lack of that backing, he adds, means those checks "willinvariably bounce with a large bang."If it wants to prevent such a bang -- and if it hopes to be sustainable -- the political classmust avail itself of the classic tools of democracy, which academics like Brunkhorst call"input legitimacy." The input must come from citizens, from the bottom up, throughelections as well as through discussions; in other words, the tedious business of formingthe political will of the people. Both the Spanish and German constitutions see thatactivity as the reason for the existence of political parties. The most urgent thing, saysSolana, is to create a "European public sphere."The political class must make an effort to win over citizens, because it can no longerspoil them in material terms. This is "legitimacy through action." The citizens, saysSolana, must "go along with us." To ensure that they accept the great leap forward,political leaders must convince their nations.According to Solana, those who don't keep up will lose out. "If we are not intelligentenough to complete this integration, there will be a privileged economic relationshipbetween the United States and China, and we'll be out," he warns.
The Problem of
We
the European People”
 But who is the "we"? The problem in conveying such messages to citizens lies in thefact that nobody feels that they are part of this "we." For German democracy scholarBrunkhorst, this is the greatest threat to Europe's survival. The governments, in his

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Right now, the people of Europe are very much opposed to deeper economic and political integration. For example, 76 percent of Germans says that they have little or no faith in the euro and one recent poll found that German voters are against the introduction of "Eurobonds" by about a 5 to 1 margin.

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