Fahnen der EU-Mitgliedsländer wehen am Eingang zum Europaparlament in Strassburg


M 01.05 The EU - A Political Monstrosity behind Closed Doors? - Opacity and Lobbyism within the EU

Prejudices against the EU?!Prejudices against the EU?! (© Team Research with GrafStat)

The EU and its organs are often criticised. This criticism mostly concerns its democratic authority, its unclear decision making processes or the hardly controllable influence on EU policy, for example by business representatives. In this context, three key words that frequently turn up are democratic deficit, opacity and lobbyism.

The term democratic deficit is frequently used to express the fear the EU does not actually have a democratic government. The EU citizens directly elect the Members of Parliament. However, the EU’s powers are often said to be insufficient to give democratic legitimacy to the EU as a whole. National ministers or heads of government work in other important positions and organs. These politicians were elected in their respective states, but they were not elected by the entire EU population. As a result, there is no EU-wide electoral campaign. Some policy experts think that there cannot be such an EU-wide electoral campaign because the member states are too different with regard to their various languages and cultures. This is supposed to be the reason why a pan-European public cannot built up. Others think that quite the opposite is the case: There is no pan-European public because there is no EU-wide electoral campaign and there is hardly any European-oriented media.

Moreover, it sometimes is criticised that the EU lacks an opposition which offers visible alternatives for the current government. An opposition is usually a premise of any democracy. An additional task for an opposition is controlling the government.

People say that decision-making processes within the EU are non-transparent. One the one hand, this is due to the many EU treaties and laws which create a complex and rather abstruse web. This is why the EU is sometimes criticised for being too bureaucratic as a whole. Other policy experts point out that the EU is just as bureaucratic and confusing as other national governments. Responding to the allegations, the EU made many proceedings publicly available.*

On the other hand, many resolutions passed by the EU organs are often unknown to the public. Many EU citizens only learn about these resolutions when they have already entered into force. Sometimes it is criticised that there is no pan-European public that deals with this subject. EU politicians are regularly accused of taking advantage of the general complexity and EU citizens’ lack of knowledge by unnoticedly adopting unpopular regulations.