Distance of Legitimacy within the EU

One oft repeated criticism of the European Union and its institutions is that they are too far away from the people. That unlike the national governments and parliaments, which are within reach of the electorate, the EU leaders are 4-5 steps away, too far, making them essentially “unelected bureaucrats” and not “politicians answerable to the people”.

While still having plenty of problems (like the low turnout rate at the Europarliament elections), the EU has improved a lot since the Lisbon reforms when it comes to democratic legitimacy. That’s why I often find that the “too removed from the people” argument is often based either on outdated perceptions vis-a-vis the way the Union functions, or on a lack awareness on just how complex some national democratic setups are when it comes to some of the EU members. Many Member States, especially big ones in the western side of the continent have comparably complex constitutional setups.

With this in mind, I felt a comparison of the EU side by side with its Member States (plus the 3 bigger EFTA members) is necessary, in order to show that the EU’s institutions are no more distant from the Electorate than the institutions of its member countries, the democratic legitimacy of which are far less often questioned.

Note. A government appointed by an indirectly elected Head of State, but answerable to a directly elected Parliament will be considered as being ‘indirectly elected‘ since it is the vote of confidence, rather than the nomination per se which gives it a democratic legitimacy. Otherwise one will be forced to consider Governments appointed by hereditary Monarchs as being ‘undemocratic‘.

eu-degree-legitimacy1

Countries ordered by GDP.

Made in Inkscape.

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