Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft
International Politics and Society 4/2002


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Marcus Höreth
The Democratic Deficit Cannot Be Reformed Away
The Sense and Nonsense of the European Constitutional Debate

Anton Hemerijck
The Self-Transformation of the European Social Model(s)


Marcus Höreth

The Democratic Deficit Cannot Be Reformed Away
The Sense and Nonsense of the European Constitutional Debate

Amongst other things, the Laeken Convention is expected to produce proposals for reform to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of European policy. But there are no persuasive solutions in sight. Existing models of democracy cannot be successfully transferred to the EU level. They result ultimately not in an increase, but in a decrease in legitimacy. A reform strategy committed to the principle of parliamentary democracy has to fail in the face of the fact that there is no pan-European “people”. The nations are not willing to enter into the possibility of having major decisions forced on them by “foreign” majorities. On the other hand, a bicameral system which combines the principle of “one person one vote” with the principle of “one member state one vote” would face the danger of a permanent blockage and thus engender high costs for decision-making. Furthermore, the many needs to negotiate would not lessen, but would exacerbate the lack of transparency of decision-making processes. Similarly, increasing calls for the establishment of a presidential democracy along US lines cannot overcome the problem. Not least, such a structure is foreign to European constitutional traditions. A strategy based on post-parliamentary participation by civil society would end up placing powerful and well-organized groups in a privileged position. Post-parliamentary decision-making networks would remain untransparent for the general public and would violate both the principle of public control of political decisions and that of the political equality of all citizens. Precisely because the democratic deficit cannot be reformed away and because this implies that there is no possibility for major qualitative constitutional improvements, European politics should concentrate on enhancing the abilities of European governance to deal with problems – on its effectiveness and efficiency. The concepts of coordination, subsidiarity and differentiated integration point in the right directions. The capacity to solve problems which cannot be tackled at national level will continue to be the most important foundation of the EU's legitimacy. This implies that the Union needs to legitimize itself primarily via its policy output. The better it does that, the better it will be able to live with its democratic deficit – something it will have to live with anyway.



Anton Hemerijck

The Self-Transformation of the European Social Model(s)

Ensuring a high level of employment coupled with a very fair distribution of wealth, without the private and public-sector budgets being crushed by the financial burden – that is the trilemma facing the European welfare states, and so far they have failed to resolve it completely. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, the objective of fair distribution of wealth has been neglected, in Scandinavia the financing is the central problem, and on the European continent the main difficulty is employment – without the issues of distribution of wealth and financing being resolved. The European welfare states have attempted to tackle this challenge with a number of reforms. The diversity of social, political and institutional contexts is reflected in a variety of reform concepts which rarely depart from the traditional approaches of the respective model (“bounded change”). They all have in common a tendency towards a pro-active labor-market policy, supported by measures intended to ensure the compatibility of work and family life. Measures to improve the financial position of the pension insurance systems also play a central role, and generally involve a tightening of entitlement conditions. Further-reaching reforms generally derive from a deep-reaching crisis and necessitate a comprehensive consensus among the political players (examples: Netherlands, Sweden, Italy; contrary example: France). Hardly any use is made of the standard remedies offered by neoliberal policy concepts. European integration reached the field of employment and social policy in the 1990s. This will benefit the legitimacy of the European Union, since economic integration without social progress will be insufficient in the long term. The “open method of coordination” utilizes an approach to policy coordination which takes account of the variety of contexts and challenges and enables differentiated policy learning in the European context.



Dick Howard                 

The Left Agenda After September 11
An American View

The events of September 11, 2001, have brought to the fore a dominant trend of traditionally left-wing debate which is strikingly inappropriate in view of today’s political problems. It is the tendency to shift the debate directly to the root causes of the various evils of this world and, from there, to construct a closed-off and morally superior world-view. An understanding of the basic evil – typically the laws of the capitalist economy and the resultant severe lack of justice in the world – allows clear judgments on who is right and who is wrong and stipulates clear strategies for long-term political action. The danger is that such fundamental certainties simply define away major policy issues. Those who focus solely on an alleged basic evil cut themselves out of the politically relevant debate and relinquish important objectives (e.g. the restrictions to be observed in the fight against terrorism). Critical intelligence should recall that, above all, the right to criticism – which alone permits and legitimizes the uncovering of abuses – must be defended. This right is anchored in the fundamental democratic values and is based on the postulate that there is no ultimate certainty, that everything in society may be questioned. This right to question certainties must be fought for time and again even in states with democratic constitutions. Even democratic societies have a tendency to restrict the scope of politically legitimate debate and to replace it with “values” protected by taboos. This is particularly the case with the debate which serves the dominant interests. But not even left-wing criticism is free of this tendency. It is important to keep reactivating democracy against such an “anti-politics” pursued by the left and the right alike. That implies that contradictions between opposing values are recognized and are made the object of political “deliberation” which takes into account the concrete circumstances of policy issues. The task for the left would be to anchor the fight against terrorism and its roots in a broader fight for democracy against neo-totalitarian and fundamentalist tendencies of whatever origin. This does not run counter to traditional left-wing aspirations to justice – on the contrary.



Sean L. Yom

Islam and Globalization: Secularism, Religion, and Radicalism

In the aftermath of September 11 and in the midst of the expanding war on terrorism, many academics, while not opposed to Islam per se, have argued that Islam ardently opposes globalization and all of its ideological, economic, and cultural manifestations. This polemic contest between Islam and globalization—a dichotomy in which these two phenomena cannot coexist due to their mutual, antagonistic opposition to each other—is the discursive premise for many global chaos theories about Islam’s dark future and its impending conflict with the rest of the world. However, not only are these global chaos theories mistaken in their monolithic portrayal of Islam as the “green peril,” but they fundamentally miss the point: Islamic radicalism can be characterized not as some hideous, absurd mutation, but rather as both a transformation of contemporary religiosity as well as a vibrant voice in the global religious revival. A new way of framing the Islam-globalization duality is to reconceptualize the religious-secular divide. Secularism, which has dominated the West since the 18th century, epistemologically shifted the referential frame of human knowledge so that religion became excluded from the narrative of human experience. Globalization represented the worldwide expansion of secularism in its most modern form and thus was to have eliminated religion and the irrationality it represented. However, a broad-based religious revival has occurred in the last four decades across the world, in which new religious identities, communities, and faiths have arisen in precise reaction to globalization. The return of Islam as a salient religio-political dynamic in Muslim countries is simply one element of this expansive return to religion.  Such an evolution highlights the different ways in which the secular-religious binary is not as stable as previously assumed; as much as these two concepts remain reciprocally opposed, each also ironically requires the other’s existence in order to derive, legitimate, and reify its discourses and relations of power. Similarly, Islam and globalization are not abstract elements locked in a vicious contest; they engage one another on different planes, and they actually reflect unique aspects of each other through their constructed differences. In the end, Islam can be portrayed as a critical element of globalization rather than its most intractable opponent.



Robert Christian van Ooyen

The International Criminal Court Between
Law-making, Power Politics and Symbolism

The argument about the extension of the UN mission in Bosnia and the special rules for the United States regarding prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has met with great outrage in many European countries, and even been regarded as “attempted blackmail” which would torpedo all the work of the new Court. However, if one bears in mind the political conditions currently constraining effective international criminal jurisdiction, one has to say that political backing from “great powers” is vital. This has been made clear by the establishment of the UN tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda by the UN Security Council. The ICC, as it starts its work, is no exception. The Court remains subordinate to states not only in all of its powers to prosecute genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression: even in those cases which actually make it to the ICC, it is – rightly – reliant on the political backing of the UN Security Council, which, in cases of doubt, alone disposes of effective political enforcement measures, in Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Against this background, the argument on both sides proves rather to be an act of purely symbolic politics. After all, Security Council Resolution 1422, adopted on the basis of Article 16 of the ICC Statute, which initially gives the USA a grace period of one year, is not a bad compromise when seen in pragmatic terms. It merely reveals what is a precondition for the ICC’s effectiveness – and what was in any case deliberately intended by tying the institution of the ICC to the United Nations. The emphasis now should be on heightening people’s understanding of what the Court can realistically achieve in the coming years.



Hans-Joachim Spanger                                            

Between Democratic Idealism and Realist Security Policy:
Russia and the West After September 11

Since September 11, 2001, there has been a historic shift in the relationship between the United States and Russia. For the USA, the central challenge since that date has been the fight against terrorism. Russia plays an important symbolic political role here, since the inclusion of Russia in the global coalition lends the aura of a volonté générale of the civilized world for the American war against terrorism, if one disregards the material advantages like the access to the central Asian operational bases in what used to be the exclusive Russian sanctuary of the CIS states. For Russia, the potential benefits of the new foreign-policy strategy are obvious: firstly the hope of Western concessions, particularly regarding earlier membership of the WTO and slower NATO enlargement, and secondly the justified expectation that, in the interests of a stable anti-terrorism coalition, the West will cease to insist on a democratization of Russia. The new US-Russian entente is unadulterated Realpolitik resting on a shared basis of foreign policy, the common denominator of which is manifested in the West in the emergence of a genuine foreign-policy interest in Russia which has placed what had been a dominant agenda of democratization onto a backburner of ritual lip-service, and is dominated on the Russian side by a genuine domestic interest in modernization which is at once authoritarian and accelerated. However, such a common basis will only be viable for Russia and the West in the long term if it guarantees measurable success for both sides. Here, the progress made in Russia’s interest in the months since September 11 is at best mixed.


Eric Teo Chu Cheow

Towards an East Asian Model of Regional Cooperation

Since the 1997 Asian Crisis, ASEAN has lost its former momentum. The hopes of its newer member states (Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia) to participate in the association’s erstwhile economic dynamism have been frustrated. The older members face mounting problems with Muslim revivalism.  Overall, ASEAN countries are looking now for national, rather than regionally orchestrated, solutions to their problems. ASEAN has come to see salvation in economic cooperation on a larger scale, extending to the whole Asia-Pacific region. The idea has found its expression in the “ASEAN+3” initiative, which aims to incorporate China, Japan and South Korea. The initiative must be seen against the background (a) of China’s spectacular economic growth, but also the formidable challenges that could jeopardize the country’s future economic development and political stability; (b) of Japan’s long-standing economic difficulties and the fundamental transformation Japanese society is currently going through; (c) South Korea’s economic re-emergence in the context of political uncertainty. There are three – not mutually exclusive – approaches to further economic integration in East Asia. One is to create an intertwining web of free trade agreements, which could result one day in an encompassing “ASEAN+3” free trade area. Another approach emphasizes Japanese investment throughout the region, something which would have to be supported politically. A third approach is centered on China as the region’s engine of economic growth and envisages a regional division of labor orientated towards the expanding Chinese economy and structured according to the various countries’ different levels of development. A regional economy along these lines is de facto already emerging. East Asian economic integration would be to the benefit of all countries involved, but it would – for a long time to come – not follow an institutional model of common governance like the one of the European Union. It would be a purely functional integration, based essentially on the liberalization of intra-regional trade.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | net edition malte.michel | 9/2002