Referendum challenges to the EU's policy legitimacy – and how the EU responds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Multiple ways of legitimating policy in a multi-level system of states are now creating cross-level challenges to EU policies. At the national level referendums are challenging EU policies by claiming that demands input in a direct democracy ballot have the highest legitimacy. By contrast, the EU legitimates its policies by the legal rationality of the policymaking process established by international treaties and confirmed by the representative credentials of the European Parliament and member state governments endorsing its actions in the European Council. Referendums are no longer held to confirm their national government’s decision to become an EU member state. There has been a paradigm shift since 2005; most votes in countries holding EU referendums have rejected policies approved by their elected representatives. The EU has successfully responded using strategies that involve legal coercion; instrumental calculations; secondary concessions; and avoidance of the risk of a referendum veto through differential integration. However, the legal legitimation of an EU policy without frustration by national referendums does not ensure policy effectiveness.
LanguageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Early online date31 Jan 2018
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jan 2018

Fingerprint

EU policy
referendum
legitimacy
EU
multi-level system
European Council
direct democracy
EU member state
European Parliament
international agreement
legitimation
concession
frustration
rationality
voter
paradigm

Keywords

  • democracy policy
  • European Union
  • legitimacy
  • referendum

Cite this

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