Governing, Representation and Democracy

Panel Code

Europe's emerging multilevel governing system with the EU at its core is a major political experiment in representation and democratic governing. As such, across Europe there are questions pertaining to the manner in which we conceptualise representative democracy, not the least the role of legislatures, and political order in contemporary political contexts. At present these important theoretical-intellectual challenges are compounded by the many crises and challenges that the EU has been facing since the financial crisis struck in 2008. The effects of the financial crisis were particularly pronounced in the EU context, because they exhibited the EU’s fragile and contested nature and have proven detrimental to representative democracy. The transition from a permissive consensus to a constraining dissensus reflects a far greater public awareness but also scepticism of the EU. That in turn is given added impetus by the June 23 2016 decision by a majority of UK citizens to exit the EU. The EU after six decades of remarkable integration is currently faced with the first major instance of rolling back integration in a major member state, if and insofar as the UK exits the Union. At the same time, the issue of possible fragmentation is not confined to the EU; Scotland is pondering independence or a differentiated status in the UK; Catalonia seeks independence from Spain. Within the frail European context, such centrifugal processes can have knock-on effects with highly uncertain democratic implications.
The papers in this panel represent a cross-section of the challenges listed above. They focus on such critical aspects of democracy as accountability, transparency and representation and link these to the role and salience of legislatures as well as processes of territorial and political reconfiguration associated with Brexit and similar secessionist tendencies. Further, they focus on institutional infrastructure of democracy and the relationship between law and politics, with increased juridification as a possible constraint on Democracy (including the role of legislatures) but also with the prospect of de-juridification engendering democratic and legitimacy problems. The papers are concerned with getting as clear a grip as possible on comprehending the contemporary conditions surrounding democratic governing in the complex multilevel EU. At the same time, they relate these contextually based examinations to broader themes of democratic governing, of general relevance to political science.