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The lack of legitimacy of the European Parliament

The most striking reason for the European Parliament’s lack of legitimacy is the traditional low turnout for EP elections

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2023

This concerns the ‘European citizen’ him/herself. The so-called ‘no demos’ thesis argues that due to the lack of homogeneity among different memberstates, it is not possible to speak of ‘European citizens’.
This concerns the ‘European citizen’ him/herself. The so-called ‘no demos’ thesis argues that due to the lack of homogeneity among different memberstates, it is not possible to speak of ‘European citizens’.

by N. Peter Kramer

Last election in 2019, just over half (50,66%) of eligible EU citizens went to the polls. The highest percentage of this century, mainly caused, ironically, by a higher than usual number of votes for critical and anti-EU political parties.

It is clear that with turnouts like this, the claim that the EP represents more than 450 million Europeans is difficult to defend.

Even if turnout for the EP elections rises, the institution would still face a legitimacy problem.

This concerns the ‘European citizen’ him/herself. The so-called ‘no demos’ thesis argues that due to the lack of homogeneity among different memberstates, it is not possible to speak of ‘European citizens’.

Disregarding even that the European Union considers itself as ‘Europe’ while countries as for instance the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Serbia and Iceland are not belonging to the EU-list.

The ‘no demos’ theory is supported by practice. In the European (read: EU) Commission’s ‘Special Eurobarometer 508’ respondents were asked the question with which they most identify.

Only respondents from Luxembourg placed their identity as European citizen in their top three. The national identity made the top three in 21 memberstates. The average citizen in the EU is therefore more likely to be a national citizen.

As long as the legitimacy is hard to find, it would behove the EP to take it down a notch and to stop pretending to be the representative of 450 million Europeans.

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