Research objectives WP 1

Theoretical Framework

The nation state has been the institutional mainstay of modern democracy. Today, this particular political form is challenged and may be transcended by something new. Can the state form as such be rescued in Europe, and if so, at what level? Are alternative forms more viable? WP 1 provides a normative assessment of three different models for reconstituting democracy in Europe and gives a theoretical account of democratic legitimacy in the European multilevel constellation.

RECON’s theoretical model building has two objectives: (i) to spell out the deliberative perspective in relation to each of the RECON models, and (ii) to establish whether democracy can prevail without a state and a nation, that is, whether a post-national union with a cosmopolitan imprint is possible. Towards this second aim, WP 1 works out a theory of democratic deliberative supranationalism.

WP 1 deals with some of the basic questions regarding democracy beyond the nation state. It examines the nuts and bolts of deliberative theory: the problem of procedure and substance, the epistemic and moral merits of deliberation, the role of rights and of enforcement, and the relationship between statehood and democracy.

The overarching aim of WP 1 is to examine what democracy can mean under conditions of pluralism, complexity, inequality and multilevel governance structures. Democracy can be pinned down to two basic criteria: accountability and congruence. By congruence is meant the basic democratic principle that those affected by laws should also be authorized to make them. Accountability designates that the decision makers can be held responsible by the citizenry and that, in the last resort, it is possible to dismiss incompetent rulers. The research within the project aims at a model of a European supranational democracy and a new paradigm of European integration research.

WP 1 spells out and develops specific indicators for each of the three models for reconstituting democracy in Europe:

Model I: Reconstituting democracy at the national level
Can democracy in Europe be reconstituted at the national level, with a concomitant reframing of the EU as a functional regulatory regime based on, in normative terms, the epistemic value of deliberation and problem-solving? Is it empirically viable and normatively desirable to partly roll back European integration? This option entails a clearer delineation of tasks and competences at the different levels of governance in Europe and measures to heighten the transparency and public accountability of governance structures.
Model II: Reconstituting through copying the democratic state
Can democracy be reconstituted through establishing the EU as a federal state based on a collective identity? To what extent can the EU emulate state-based democracy at the European level? This option is based on the presumption that only the unity of law can warrant democracy. To make democracy possible at the European level it is thus necessary to appropriate the coercive instruments of a state.
Model III: Developing a post-national Union
Can democracy in Europe be reconstituted through the development of a post-national Union with an explicit cosmopolitan imprint? This option entails an EU with some governmental functions, albeit an EU that is not a state. The normative basis of this new order is deliberative democratic supranationalism, which is ecumenical on precise institutional make-up, so long as it operationalises the basic insight that democratic legitimacy requires the justification of results to the ones who are affected by them.

WP 1 leads the work of operationalising each of the three RECON models, establishing indicators and linking them to the particular analytical challenges raised in the policy fields and issue areas addressed by RECON. The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), consisting of RECON’s WP leaders, is in charge of the operationalisation and adaptation of the framework to each work package. On the basis of the empirical research undertaken in WPs 2-9, WP 1 structures the work of subjecting the models to critical tests as well as synthesise the findings with the aim of taking stock of European democracy. WP 1 thus ensures overall coherence and integration of the project. The aim is to contribute to a political theory of a democratic European polity on the basis of a reflective equilibrium between the results of the empirical research done in the various work packages and the model of deliberative democracy.