The European Union as a Democracy: Really a Third Way?

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Should the EU be a federal union or an intergovernmental forum? Recently,
demoicrats have been arguing that there exists a third alternative. The EU should be conceived as a demoicracy, namely a “Union of peoples who govern together, but not as one (Nicolaïdis).” The demoi of Europe recognize that they affect one another’s democratic health, and hence establish a union to guarantee their freedom qua demoi – which most demoicrats cash out as non-domination. This is more than intergovernmentalism, because the demoi govern together on these
matters. However, if the union aims at protecting the freedom of the different European demoi, it cannot do so by replacing them with a “superdemos,” as federalists want. This paper argues that demoicracy does possess distinctive normative features; it claims, however, that an institutional choice between intergovernmentalism and federalism is necesary. Depending on how we interpret what the non-domination of demoi requires, demoicracy will either ground a specific way of practicing intergovernmentalism or a specific form of federalism. It cannot, however, ground an institutional model which is genuinely alternative to both.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-234
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


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