The institutional forms adopted by the EU are based upon the implicit assumption that a common European identity would substitute for national forms of identity as a natural evolution. Although the European identity does exist, it does not allow for the kind of “one-fits-for-all” of the present EU system. The European identity – contrary to national identities – is a common set of democratic values shaped for respecting the very existence of heterogeneous national components. This paper illustrates how the EU institutional structure and governance should reflect such a plural identity by an alternative method for maintaining social, cultural and economic differences (sub-identities) to legitimize the necessary acceleration of integration.
The genuine priority is to focus upon the “democratic gap” and to be able to undertake a questioning of the way the EU institutions have performed and overall questioning the way the EU institutional architecture uses to work badly when these institutions are used and abused by national politicians and elites vested interests. the present lack of popular consensus for federal actions and goals, but also the popular rejection of the way the previous belief into the EU was used “undemocratically” by elites and national politicians for their own interests. Fighting against this hidden derive towards inter-governmentalism with more centralization – like a social or fiscal union – is making worse the effective hidden inter-governmentalism if the institutional architecture remains in the discretionary hands of national policymakers which are “judges-and-parts” as the euro crisis has been demonstrating for a decade (and is about to be even clearer). A social or fiscal union in the present situation would strengthen massively the populist movements against the EU and would accelerate the disintegration of the EU.
The difficulty the EU must overcome: democracy requires a narrower geographical scope while integration requires a broader scope of actions and a centralization of powers.
The solution does exist and is simple: democracy has also a spatial dimension. Subsidiarity principle should make compatible democracy with centralization as far as a popular consensus does exist for making legitimate some limited degree of efficient centralization in very few natural areas (those where the efficiency of supranational action is obvious), while the same democratic logics makes all the more consensual the degree of decentralization for all the other areas (the huge majority of policies) even if it supposes some specific transfers of power from national to sub-national or local administrations.