Democracy or Demagogy?

Over the years we have often posted our views on the EU’s claims to be a democratic organisation. Rather than repeat the arguments – about which there is little new to say – we offer a selection from our previous posts on this subject,

This post was triggered by an article in EUObserver [1], in which the author (Jaap Hoeksma, a philosopher of law, and the author of The European Union: a democratic Union of democratic States) simply restates the EU’s claim to be a democratic organisation. We offer some quotations from the article with our comments.

The EU is at odds with itself. It wants to be a democracy but presents itself as an association of states.”

Actually, the EU presents itself as a democracy; see [5] or [12] particularly.

Obviously, Biden regards the EU as a democratic international organisation.

No, this doesn’t follow. Biden may believe that the EU’s representatives have something to contribute to the discussion on democracy; (see, for example Article 10: 1 of the CONSOLIDATED VERSION OF THE TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION (TEU). “The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.)”

The author does acknowledge a fundamental principle of sovereignty, that “States do not have to recognise any higher authority and deal with each other on equal footing.” However, he does not point out that such sovereignty does not apply to the EU, whose jurisdiction overrides that of each member state; (see, for example, our post titled EU Treaties-4: Law, Agreements & CJEU.)

He then states, without providing any evidence that might justify the claim, that “the EU has evolved from a union of democratic states to a European democracy. …The member states have first agreed on their constitutional principles between themselves and subsequently applied them to their organisation.

And this enables him to claim that “By doing so, they have transformed their union of states into a democratic international organisation.” Of course, we don’t agree.

The EU commissioned an ex-French President to write a constitution but some states require a referendum on such things. After two ballots rejected the proposed constitution the process was halted by withdrawing it and transforming it into treaties (Lisbon: TEU and TFEU:[11]) that were adopted by the EU Council. The Council members (heads of states) may have been democratically appointed by their respective electorates but overriding the direct votes of citizens once again epitomises a fundamental, founding principle of the Union – that it must be led by wise men rather than follow the uninformed wishes of the masses, who vote.

For more on this, see [12] particularly, which refers to an earlier article in EUObserver on the same theme and by the same author.


[2] Democracy (April 27, 2016)

[3] Discontented Democrats (23 December, 2016)

[4] Democratic Deficit (26 December, 2016)

[5] Democracy or Institutional Strengthening? (September 18, 2017)

[6] Democracy Denied (April 6, 2018)

[7] So What is Democracy? (December 2, 2018)

[8] On Democracy-1 (December 29, 2018)

[9] On Democracy-2 (December 29, 2018)

[10] On Democracy-3 (December 29, 2018)

[11] Themes-15: Democracy (June 10, 2019)

[12] EU Treaties-2: Values & Democracy (October 10, 2020)

[13] Observing Democracy (October 21, 2021)

[14] Valuing Democracy (February 18, 2022)


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