Basic Principles of Democracy Essay
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Democracy comes from the Greek word, “demos,” meaning people. In democracies, it is the people who hold sovereign power over legislator and government. Democracy is a form of government in which power is held by people under a free electoral system. It is derived from the Greek δημοκρατία, “popular government”] which was coined from δήμος (dēmos), “people” and κράτος (kratos), “rule, strength” in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.
In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second one that all the members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties. There are several varieties of democracy some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others.
However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system of rule is able to accumulate power in a way that is harmful to democracy itself. The “majority rule” is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the “tyranny of the majority”. An essential process in representative democracies are competitive elections, that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests. Popular sovereignty is common but not a universal motivating philosophy for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the philosophical principle of equal rights.
Many people use the term “democracy” as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of civil society outside the government. In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a supporting attribute, but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant philosophy is parliamentary sovereignty (though in practice judicial independence is generally maintained). In other cases, “democracy” is used to mean direct democracy. Though the term “democracy” is typically used in the context of a political state, the principles are also applicable to private organizations and other groups.
Though democracy has its origins in Ancient Greece other cultures have significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient India, Ancient Rome, Europe, and North and South America. Democracy has been called the “last form of government” and has spread considerably across the globe. Suffrage has been expanded in many jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups (such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), but still remains a controversial issue with regard to disputed territories, areas with significant immigration, and countries that exclude certain demographic groups. The contemporary interpretation of democracy from the political point of view is that it is a system of government in which a country’s political leaders are chosen by the people in regular, free and fair elections.
In a democracy, people have a choice between different candidates and parties who want the power to govern. The people can criticize and replace their elected leaders and representatives if they do not perform well. The people are sovereign — they are the highest authority — and government is based on the will of the people. Elected representatives at the national and local levels must listen to the people and be responsive to their needs. That is why democracy depends upon a literate, knowledgeable citizenry whose access to information enables it to participate as fully as possible in the public life of their society and to criticize unwise or tyrannical government officials or policies. Citizens and their elected representatives recognize that democracy depends upon the widest possible access to uncensored ideas, data, and opinions. All people should have the right to form their own opinions and express them individually or in peaceful assemblies. Free societies create a “marketplace of ideas” where people exchange their views on any number of issues.
Although nuances apply to the world’s various democracies, certain principles and practices distinguish democratic government from other forms of government.
• Democracy is government in which power and civic responsibility are exercised by all citizens, directly or through their freely elected representatives.
• Democracy is a set of principles and practices that protect human freedom; it is the institutionalization of freedom.
• Democracy rests upon the principles of majority rule, coupled with individual and minority rights. All democracies, while respecting the will of the majority, zealously protect the fundamental rights of individuals and minority groups.
• Democracies guard against all-powerful central governments and decentralize government to regional and local levels, understanding that local government must be as accessible and responsive to the people as possible.
• Democracies understand that one of their prime functions is to protect such basic human rights as freedom of speech and religion; the right to equal protection under law; and the opportunity to organize and participate fully in the political, economic, and cultural life of society.
• Democracies conduct regular free and fair elections open to all citizens. Elections in a democracy cannot be facades that dictators or a single party hide behind, but authentic competitions for the support of the people.
• Democracy subjects governments to the rule of law and ensures that all citizens receive equal protection under the law and that their rights are protected by the legal system.
• Democracies are diverse, reflecting each nation’s unique political, social, and cultural life.
• Democracies rest upon fundamental principles, not uniform practices.
• Citizens in a democracy not only have rights, they have the responsibility to participate in the political system that, in turn, protects their rights and freedoms.
• Democratic societies are committed to the values of tolerance, cooperation, and compromise.
• Democracies recognize that reaching consensus requires compromise and that it may not always be attainable. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”
Principles of Democracy
People from around the world have identified the basic principles, which must exist in order to have a democratic government. These principles often become a part of the constitution or bill of rights in a democratic society. Though no two democratic countries are exactly alike, people in democracies support many of the same basic principles and desire the same benefits from their government. The following are examples of the principles referred to as signposts of democracy, which will be used throughout this lesson:
1. Citizen Participation
One of the most basic signposts of a democracy is citizen participation in government. Participation is the key role of citizens in democracy. It is not only their right, but it is their duty. Citizen participation may take many forms including standing for election, voting in elections, becoming informed, debating issues, attending community or civic meetings, being members of private voluntary organizations, paying taxes, and even protesting. Participation builds a better democracy.
Democratic societies emphasize the principle that all people are equal. Equality means that all individuals are valued equally, have equal opportunities, and may not be discriminated against because of their race, religion, ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation. In a democracy, individuals and groups still maintain their right to have different cultures, personalities, languages and beliefs.
3. Political Tolerance
Democratic societies are politically tolerant. This means that while the majority of the people rule in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected. People who are not in power must be allowed to organize and speak out. Minorities are sometimes referred to as the opposition because they may have ideas which are different from the majority. Individual citizens must also learn to be tolerant of each other.
A democratic society is often composed of people from different cultures, racial, religious and ethnic groups who have viewpoints different from the majority of the population. A democratic society is enriched by diversity. If the majority deny rights to and destroy their opposition, then they also destroy democracy. One goal of democracy is to make the best possible decision for the society. To achieve this, respect for all people and their points of view is needed. Decisions are more likely to be accepted, even by those who oppose them, if all citizens have been allowed to discuss, debate and question them.
As George Washington said “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,it is a force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” In a democracy, elected and appointed officials have to be accountable to the people. They are responsible for their actions. Officials must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people, not for themselves. Government accountability means that public officials – elected and un-elected – have an obligation to explain their decisions and actions to the citizens. Government accountability is achieved through the use of a variety of mechanisms – political, legal, and administrative – designed to prevent corruption and ensure that public officials remain answerable and accessible to the people they serve. In the absence of such mechanisms, corruption may thrive.
The primary political accountability mechanism is free and fair elections. Fixed-terms of office and elections force elected officials to account for their performance and provide opportunities for challengers to offer citizens alternative policy choices. If voters are not satisfied with the performance of an official, they may vote them out of office when their terms expire. The degree to which public officials are politically accountable is a function of whether they occupy an elected versus appointed position, how often they are up for reelection, and how many terms they can serve.
Legal accountability mechanisms include the whole legal framework – constitutions, legislative acts, decrees, rules, codes, and other legal instruments that proscribe actions that public officials can and cannot take and how citizens may take action against those officials whose conduct is considered unsatisfactory. An independent judiciary is an essential requirement for the success of legal accountability, serving as a venue where citizens bring claims against the government. Legal accountability mechanisms include:
• Ethics statutes and codes of conduct for public officials, outlining unacceptable practices • Conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws, requiring public officials to divulge the source of their income and assets so that citizens may judge whether the actions of those officials are likely to be influenced improperly by financial interests • “Sunshine” laws, providing the press and the public access to government records and meetings • Citizen participation requirements, dictating that certain government Judicial review, providing courts the power to review the decisions and actions of public officials and agencies. Administrative accountability mechanisms include offices within agencies or ministries and practices within administrative processes designed to ensure that the decisions and actions of public officials account for the interest of the citizens. Administrative accountability mechanisms include:
• Ombudsmen, responsible for hearing and addressing citizen complaints; • Independent auditors who scrutinize the use of public funds for signs of misuse; • Administrative courts, that hear citizens’ complaints about agency decisions; • Ethics rules protecting so-called whistleblowers – those within government who speak out about corruption or abuse of official authority – from reprisals.
For government to be accountable the people must be aware of what is happening in the country. This is referred to as transparency in government. A transparent government holds public meetings and allows citizens to attend. In a democracy, the press and the people are able to get information about what decisions are being made, by whom and why.
6. Regular, Free and Fair Elections
One way citizens of the country express their will is by electing officials to represent them in government. Democracy insists that these elected officials are chosen and peacefully removed from office in a free and fair manner. Intimidation, corruption and threats to citizens during or before an election are against the principles of democracy. In a democracy, elections are held regularly every so many years. Participation in elections should not be based on a citizen’s wealth. For free and fair elections to occur, most adult citizens should have the right to stand for government office. Additionally, obstacles should not exist which make it difficult for people to vote.
Free and fair elections allow people living in a representative democracy to determine the political makeup and future policy direction of their nation’s government. Free and fair elections increase the likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power. They help to ensure that losing candidates will accept the validity of the election’s results and cede power to the new government.
Elections alone do not assure democracy since dictators can use the resources of the state to tamper with the election process. Free and fair elections require: • Universal suffrage for all eligible men and women to vote – democracies do not restrict this right from minorities, the disabled, or give it only to those who are literate or who own property. • Freedom to register as a voter or run for public office. • Freedom of speech for candidates and political parties – democracies do not restrict candidates or political parties from criticizing the performance of the incumbent. • Numerous opportunities for the electorate to receive objective information from a free press.
• Freedom to assemble for political rallies and campaigns. • Rules that require party representatives to maintain a distance from polling places on election day – election officials, volunteer poll workers, and international monitors may assist voters with the voting process but not the voting choice. • An impartial or balanced system of conducting elections and verifying election results – trained election officials must either be politically independent or those overseeing elections should be representative of the parties in the election.
• Accessible polling places, private voting space, secure ballot boxes, and transparent ballot counting. • Secret ballots – voting by secret ballot ensures that an individual’s choice of party or candidate cannot be used against him or her. • Legal prohibitions against election fraud – enforceable laws must exist to prevent vote tampering (e.g. double counting, ghost voting). • Recount and contestation procedures – legal mechanisms and processes to review election processes must be established to ensure that elections were conducted properly.
7. Economic Freedom
People in a democracy must have some form of economic freedom. This means that the government allows some private ownership of property and businesses, and that the people are allowed to choose their own work and labor unions. The role the government should play in the economy is open to debate, but it is generally accepted that free markets should exist in a democracy and the state should not totally control the economy. Some argue that the state should play a stronger role in countries where great inequality of wealth exists due to past discrimination or other unfair practices.
8. Control of the Abuse of Power
Democratic societies try to prevent any elected official or group of people from misusing or abusing their power. One of the most common abuses of power is corruption. Corruption occurs when government officials use public funds for their own benefit or exercise power in an illegal manner. Various methods have been used in different countries to protect against these abuses. Frequently the government is structured to limit the powers of the branches of government: to have independent courts and agencies with power to act against any illegal action by an elected official or branch of government; to allow for citizen participation and elections; and to check for police abuse of power.
9. Accepting the Results of Elections
In democratic elections, there are winners and losers. Often the losers in an election believe so strongly that their party or candidate is the best one, that they refuse to accept the results of the election. This is against democratic principles. The consequences of not accepting the result of an election may be a government that is ineffective and cannot make decisions. It may even result in violence which is also against democracy.
10. Human Rights
All democracies strive to respect and protect the human rights of citizens. Human rights mean those values that reflect respect for human life and human dignity. Democracy emphasizes the value of every human being. Examples of human rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, the right to equality and the right to education. All human beings are born with inalienable rights. These human rights empower people to pursue lives of dignity – thus, no government can bestow them but all governments should protect them.
Freedom, built on a foundation of justice, tolerance, dignity, and respect – regardless of ethnicity, religion, political association, or social standing – allows people to pursue these fundamental rights. Whereas dictatorships deny human rights, free societies continually strive to attain them. Human rights are interdependent and indivisible; they encompass myriad facets of human existence including social, political, and economic issues. Among the most commonly accepted are:
• All people should have the right to express their ideas and opinions. • All people should have the right to participate in government. Governments should create laws that protect human rights while justice systems enforce those laws equally among the population. • Freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture – whether one is an opponent of the ruling political party, an ethnic minority, or even a common criminal – is a basic human right. A professional police force respects all citizens as it enforces the laws of the nation. • In ethnically diverse nations, religious and ethnic minorities should be free to use their language and maintain their traditions without fear of recrimination from the majority population. Governments should recognize the rights of minorities while respecting the will of the majority.
• All people should have the opportunity to work, earn a living, and support their families. • Children deserve special protection. They should receive at least an elementary education, proper nutrition, and healthcare. To maintain human rights, citizens in any free society need to be vigilant. Citizen responsibility – through a variety of participatory activities – ensures that government remains accountable to the people. The family of free nations is committed to work toward protection of human rights. They formalize their commitment through a number of international treaties and covenants on human rights.
11. Multi-Party Systems
In order to have a multi-party system, more than one political party must participate in elections and play a role in government. A multi-party system allows for opposition to the party, which wins the election. This helps provide the government with different viewpoints on issues. Additionally, a multi-party system provides voters with a choice of candidates, parties and policies to vote for. Historically, when a country only has one party, the result has been a dictatorship. To preserve and protect individual rights and freedoms, a democratic people must work together to shape the government of their choosing. And the principal way of doing that is through political parties. Political parties are voluntary organizations that link the people and their government. Parties recruit candidates and campaign to elect them to public office, and they mobilize people to participate in selecting government leaders.
The majority party (or the party elected to control the offices of government) seeks to enact into law a number of different policies and programs. Parties of the opposition are free to criticize the majority party’s policy ideas and offer their own proposals. Political parties provide a way for citizens to hold elected party officials accountable for their actions in government. Democratic political parties have faith in the principles of democracy so that they recognize and respect the authority of the elected government even when their party leaders are not in power. Like any democracy, members of various political parties reflect the diversity of the cultures in which they arise. Some are small and built around a set of political beliefs. Others are organized around economic interests, or shared history.
Still others are loose alliances of different citizens who may only come together at election time. All democratic political parties, whether they are small movements or large national coalitions, share the values of compromise and tolerance. They know that only through broad alliances and cooperation with other political parties and organizations can they provide the leadership and common vision that will win the support of the people of the nation. Democratic parties recognize that political views are fluid and changeable, and that consensus can often arise out of the clash of ideas and values in peaceful, free, and public debate.
The concept of the loyal opposition is central to any democracy. It means that all sides in political debate – however deep their differences – share the fundamental democratic values of freedom of speech and faith, and equal protection under law. Parties that lose elections step into the role of opposition – confident that the political system will continue to protect their right to organize and speak out. In time, their party will have a chance to campaign again for its ideas, and the votes of the people. In a democracy, the struggle between political parties is not a fight for survival, but a competition to serve the people.
12. The Rule of Law
In a democracy no one is above the law, not even a king or an elected President. This is called the rule of law. It means that everyone must obey the law and be held accountable if they violate it. Democracy also insists that the law be equally, fairly and consistently enforced. This is sometimes referred to as “due process of law.” For much of human history, rulers and law were synonymous – law was simply the will of the ruler. A first step away from such tyranny was the notion of rule by law, including the notion that even a ruler is under the law and should rule by virtue of legal means. Democracies went further by establishing the rule of law. Although no society or government system is problem-free, rule of law protects fundamental political, social, and economic rights and reminds us that tyranny and lawlessness are not the only alternatives.
Rule of law means that no individual, president or private citizen, stands above law. Democratic governments exercise authority by way of law and are themselves subject to law’s constraints. Laws should express the will of the people, not the whims of kings, dictators, military officials, religious leaders, or self-appointed political parties. Citizens in democracies are willing to obey the laws of their society, then, because they are submitting to their own rules and regulations. Justice is best achieved when the laws are established by the very people who must obey them. Under the rule of law, a system of strong, independent courts should have the power and authority, resources, and the prestige to hold government officials, even top leaders, accountable to the nation’s laws and regulations.
For this reason, judges should be well trained, professional, independent, and impartial. To serve their necessary role in the legal and political system, judges must be committed to the principles of democracy. The laws of a democracy may have many sources: written constitutions; statutes and regulations; religious and ethical teachings; and cultural traditions and practices. Regardless of origin the law should enshrine certain provisions to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens: Under the requirement of equal protection under the law, the law may not be uniquely applicable to any single individual or group.
Citizens must be secure from arbitrary arrest and unreasonable search of their homes or the seizure of their personal property. Citizens charged with crimes are entitled to a speedy and public trial, along with the opportunity to confront and question their accusers. If convicted, they may not be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment. Citizens cannot be forced to testify against themselves. This principle protects citizens from coercion, abuse, or torture and greatly reduces the temptation of police to employ such measures.
13. Bill of Rights
Many democratic countries also choose to have a bill of rights to protect people against abuse of power. A bill of rights is a list of rights and freedoms guaranteed to all people in the country. When a bill of rights becomes part of a country’s constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights. A bill of rights limits the power of government and may also impose duties on individuals and organizations.
The role of the Non-governmental Organizations
In democracies, ordinary citizens may organize independent groups that serve the needs of the community or nation they live in and complement, supplement, or even challenge the work of the government. Such organizations are often called nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, because they are not an extension of the government’s offices. NGOs allow citizens to improve their society by advocating, educating, and mobilizing attention around major public issues and monitoring the conduct of government and private enterprise. NGOs enable citizens from different backgrounds to learn to work together and build the skills, relationships, and trust necessary for good government. NGOs serve a great variety of citizen interests. They may act as social service providers, advocates for the environment or for living standards, work standards, or as the catalysts for democratic change. NGOs often represent the interests of those citizens who might otherwise be left out of national policy debates.
They open the public discourse to people of all economic and social classes and to women and minorities. Funding for NGOs may come from individual private donations, private trusts and philanthropies, corporations, religious institutions, international institutions, other NGOs, sales of goods and services, and even governments. Governments and NGOs frequently work as partners. NGOs may provide local and regional expertise and personnel on the ground for implementation of government-funded projects. NGOs may be politically unaffiliated, or they may be based on partisan ideals and seek to advance a particular cause or set of causes in the public interest. In either model the key point is that NGOs should operate under minimal political control of states.
NGOs develop local and international programs in virtually all areas that contribute to the promotion of the principles of democracy, including: • Human rights – by promoting international standards and monitoring for violations and abuses. • Rule of law – through low-cost or free legal aid, educating all citizens regarding their rights, and advocating for legal reforms. • Women’s participation – by preparing them for political participation and protecting them from socioeconomic discrimination. • Civic education – through education programs focusing on the role of the citizen in a democratic and diverse society. • A free press – by promoting independent media, training journalists, and setting standards for ethical journalism. • Political party development – through election monitoring by trained domestic observers and nonpartisan voter registration drives. • Government accountability – by conducting policy analysis and serving as watchdogs over governmental actions.
Democracy in the EU
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail. “
These are universal values and not the values of the Europeans alone. Many countries in the world are recognising and implementing these values or at least have written them down in one or the other form.
In order to obtain the objectives of the Union based on the afore-mentioned values, the European Union needs certain powers conferred in a legal framework. It is foreseen that these powers must be exercised using the Community method and specific instruments within a single institutional framework.
But through the implementation of these universal values, the European Union has become already a success story that is making membership to the Union so very attractive to its neighbours and an example for other regions in the world=
More citizens in Europe live in countries with competitive elections, political freedoms and respect for human rights than ever before. Part of this success story can be attributed – undeniably – to the process of European integration. Paradoxically, however, the European Union also finds itself increasingly the subject of general cynicism and dissatisfaction among its citizenry. Therefore, a better understanding of democracy has become vital at all levels of government, and in particular regarding the future of the EU itself.
Proposals for the further democratisation of EU decision-making can be pieced together from at least the following four different dimensions of choice:
Intergovernmental vs Supranational
Under intergovernmental approaches, the EU is democratised through the elected institutions of its member states. In the contemporary EU, for example, each member country has to ratify any change to EU Treaties according to the democratic mechanism of its choice, with referendums being used in some cases and national parliamentary votes in others. In addition, most important decisions have to be taken by the Council of Ministers on which all national governments are represented.
Even with majority voting, this allows national parliaments scope to influence the development of EU policy and hold their governments responsible for their behaviour at Union level . They can review the negotiating positions of their governments before meetings of the Council of Ministers. They can scrutinise draft legislation, which has to be circulated to each national parliament in its own language at least six weeks before it is voted in the Council. They also have important discretion in deciding how EU acquis is to be transposed into national law, since directives only require member states to achieve certain results, without specifying the methods to be employed.
Under supranational approaches, entirely new democratic institutions are established at the European level. They are purpose-made for the EU’s political system, and they operate with at least some consistency across the Union as whole. So, for example, the European Parliament is directly elected by all adult citizens of the EU. Its powers, are directed to making law for the Union as a whole, and at scrutinising, criticising and controlling the overall performance of Commission and Council in their role as the EU’s double-headed executive. In brief, it has the power to: • Approve or reject the member states’ choice of Commission and Commission President
• Dismiss the Commission on a double majority (two-thirds of votes cast, provided that those voting for a censure comprise more than half of the Parliament’s membership). The resignation of the Santer Commision in March 1999 undermined the argument that this was unlikely ever to happen. • Reject legislation in some areas (Co-decision) and amend it in others (Cooperation). The increasing use of the former means that the EP approaches bicameral status with the Council in a political system where rule-making is, arguably, the main activity. Even the latter allows the EP to structure the choices that are subsequently available to the Council.
As the previous examples imply, the EU currently mixes and matches intergovernmental and supranational approaches to democratic politics.
Consensus vs Majoritarian Democracy
Majoritarian democracy is where decisions can be taken by a bare majority of the public or its representatives. Its proponents argue that any alternative amounts to minority rule.
Consensus democracy is where the aim is to align policies with the preferences of the greatest number of citizens or their representatives, rather than with those of a simple majority. Its defenders argue that any alternative allows minorities to be excluded and is not, therefore, rule by the people as a whole. Amongst examples of consensus democracy are the following:
• Supermajoritarian decision-rules: these require decisions to be approved by more than 50 per cent of representatives. At present the EU employs supermajorities twice over, in both the Council and the EP. Majority voting in the Council requires 71 per cent of the weighted votes of member states. Most powers of the EP can only be exercised on an absolute majority of its membership. Given normal rates of absenteeism this effectively means that a majority of around two-thirds is usually needed in the EP, as well as the Council of Ministers.
• Federal systems: these parcel decision-making out between layers of government. It is rare for the EU to be the only body with powers in an issue area. It normally shares jurisdiction with national and sub-national authorities with which it has to co-ordinate its activities.
• Consociational systems: these guarantee the participation of all main cultural units in the most important decisions of a political system. In the EU, for example, all governments nominate at least one Commissioner; all member states have a seat on the Council and the opportunity to hold its rotating Presidency for a period of six months; both Council and Parliament over-represent smaller member states in a manner that underlines the principle that it is national communities — and not just citizens — that are units of value in the EU’s political system; and even the Governing Council of the European Central Bank works on the principle ‘one national central bank, one vote’.
Direct vs Indirect Democracy
Direct democracy is where the people itself takes major decisions of government. The alternative is that they only exercise public control indirectly through appointed representatives. As will be seen below, this distinction is mainly relevant to prescriptions for the democratisation of the EU, rather than to its current practice.
Strategic vs Communicative Democracy
Strategic models of democracy presuppose that actors have clear and fixed views of their interests. The main goal of democratic institutions is then to find the most efficient means of aggregating the preferences of individuals into collective actions, albeit subject to various standards of fairness. Communicative models of democracy hold that preferences also need to be debated within the political system, either because they are not fully formed prior to a process of discussion, or because group action is so very different from individual action, both actually and morally.
A big question for the EU is whether it can develop a public sphere that all citizens can access as equals, and through the medium of which all points of view can be debated and compared. Connecting European citizens to one another — and to EU institutions — raises problems of language, media, party systems and the associational structure of society, almost all of which are presently organised to support national forms of democracy, rather than a European equivalent.
The future of a strong European Union with 27 member states and more will only be possible if rules are implemented which make decisions more democratic, more transparent and thus more efficient.
A good and democratic society in the European context is a society which is open to reforms or is able to become a better society – I.e. an active civil society. The European Civil Society can give a new direction to politics. Politicians will then follow.
Only a European Civil Society which is better informed about European values, objectives and challenges will give Europe a new impetus to the further democratic development of Europe.