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Dilemmas of political legitimacy in the European Union: a contractarian analysis

Weale, A; (2017) Dilemmas of political legitimacy in the European Union: a contractarian analysis. European Politics and Society , 18 (3) pp. 348-362. 10.1080/23745118.2016.1231453. Green open access

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Abstract

The European Union (EU) is a compound polity, which requires its member states to make credible commitments about their complying with the terms of their inter-state contract. Using contemporary social contract theory, the paper analyses what conditions of inter-state credibility are necessary in order for such a contract to be successful. However, since member states make their commitments as representatives of their peoples, those same commitments must also be acceptable at the domestic level, but the domestic political accountability of collective agents calls into question the extent to which inter-state commitments can be credible. Since the domestic legitimacy is tied up with the overall advantages of the international contract, and no government can irrevocably bind its successors, the level of inter-state commitment required by any agreement may be impossible to achieve. The central problem of political legitimacy for the EU arises therefore from the conflict between inter-state commitment and the principle that political authority derives from the people, which can at best only justify a delegated, instead of a transferred, authority to supra-state institutions. This is especially true in the case of the monetary union, in which some national key powers are subjected to irrevocable and time unlimited inter-state commitments and limitations. Conversely, the conditions for direct normative legitimacy from the peoples of Europe to the EU do not exist. Alongside the monetary construction flaws of the EMU, this is the core of its structural political flaws, for which no way out has yet been found.

Type: Article
Title: Dilemmas of political legitimacy in the European Union: a contractarian analysis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/23745118.2016.1231453
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/23745118.2016.1231453
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: EU legitimacy, contemporary social contract theory, economic and monetary union, democratic accountability, EU governance
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068206
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