Research & Studies

The Future of Europe: Democracy, Civil Society and Enlargement

Laurence Whitehead in a recently published article, links the complex and blurred issue of Eastern enlargement of the EU to what he calls „democracy promotion”.*

As is usually in the case of European enlargement, reality moves ahead of theory and the social sciences: one can agree with Whitehead that the Helsinki Summit of Dec. 1999, which concluded to start accession negotiations with ten East Central European countries for both the EU enlargement and to the processes of democratization in East Central Europe embraces a high-risk component. His main argument vis a vis conventional wisdom of integration and democracy theories is that “the EU’s strategy of democracy promotion through enlargement puts external processes in command; brings into question the authority of such key national institutions as the parliament and raises the risk of conflict between those willing to conform to external conditionalities, and those who can – or will – not.”**

Is Eastern enlargement to be seen as an honest effort from Brussels of democracy promotion or has more profound causes such economic interests, political and security constraints etc? This question is a controversial. Nothing can be more true, however, than the assertion that the historic experiment of Eastern enlargement is a complex, uncertain process, most likely surrounded by unintended results which “could easily carry high costs to the EU as a whole….”

The problem with democracy in the present globalizing, postnational epoch of Europe is that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify an exclusive unit of analysis; in other words, a physically and geographically defined “demos” or constituency. Analysts and theoreticians, after recognizing that the nation state has lost its exclusive status as the frame of society and democracy and consequently seem to be an exclusive unit of analysis, often fall back to the nation state paradigm. They are unable to identify any other unit of certainty and are discouraged by the chaotic complexities of the trans- and sub-national world. Even trans-nationally collected statistical data are based on national surveys and are reflections of a cognitive map of the passing period of the nation-state.

Read more on the Institue for Social and European Studies website.