The Theory of Democratic Integration as Philosophical Foundation for European Democracy


On the eve the 2019 EP-elections the European Council will meet in the Romanian city of Sibiu in order to address the most pressing challenges for the EU-after-Brexit, notably the question as to how the democratic character of the Union can be strengthened. Is it at all possible for international organisations to function on a democratic footing?

Guest blog by Jaap Hoeksma

Against this background the collection of essays and articles about political theory and the European Union, which Richard Bellamy and Joseph Lacey have edited, has been published at a most convenient time. They have brought together contributions from different schools of thought and provide the reader with an excellent overview of current ideas, including those of Habermas, Nicolaidis, Weiler and Grimm. Yet, the editors conclude in their introduction hat, while political theory has begun to apply itself to the European Union, ‘a sufficiently developed and comprehensive political theory of the EU remains very much a work in progress’.[i]

The Theory of Democratic Integration (TDI), which has been developed on this website from a legal perspective, sheds fresh light on the relation between the concepts of democracy and the EU. Whereas many scholars argue that the two are incompatible, the TDI demonstrates that they are inextractibly interlinked. The new theory analyses the EU from the citizens’ perspective of democracy and the rule of law. In consequence, it suggests that, if two or more democratic states agree to share the exercise of sovereignty in a number of fields with a view to attain common goals, the organisation they establish for this purpose, should be democratic too.

In practical terms, the TDI reveals that the EU is currently evolving from an organisation of democratic states towards a democratic union of states and citizens. While international organisations neither have citizens nor democratic aspirations, the evolution of the EU has reached the point on which the EU may be defined as 'a Union of States and Citizens, in which the citizens are entitled to participate both in the national democracies of their countries and in the common democracy of the Union'. [ii]

On a theoretical level, the TDI introduces the Maastrichtian Model of Transnational Relations. This model has emerged as a new system of transnational governance in defiance and deviation of the prevailing Westphalian system of International Relations. It accounts for a flexible interpretation of the concept of sovereignty and for the functioning of international organisations, which are not only composed of states but also of citizens.

In his 2017 State of the Union Address President Juncker has acknowledged this development by qualifying the EU as 'a la fois Union d'Etats et Union des Citoyens'. The TDI underpins this qualification with a philosophical fundament and provides the EU with a political theory, capable of guiding the Union in its evolution towards a mature European democracy.

[i] R. Bellamy and J. Lacey, Political Theory and the European Union, Routledge 2017, lendable in the Library

[ii] The EU Citizens’ Definition has been launched in: J. Hoeksma, From Common Market to Common Democracy, Oisterwijk 2016, lendable in the Library