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The democratic deficit in the EU’s security and defense policy – why bother?


  • Wolfgang Wagner


Even though the member states have kept the European Union’s security and defense policy intergovernmental, there has been an emerging democratic deficit in this issue area. Given the standard version of the democratic deficit as a result from Qualified Majority Voting in the Council and from the delegation of competencies to supra-national institutions, the notion of a democratic deficit in the intergovernmental second pillar of the EU may come as a surprise. This paper demonstrates, however, that the high degree of military integration among the EU states serves as a functional equivalent to the pooling and delegating of competencies: Because the establishment of multinational high-readiness forces (‘battle groups’) requires member states to commit specific troops for specific periods, it has become difficult for individual members to refrain from participation in a military mission even in the absence of domestic public support. Students of European governance or democratic theory may argue that a democratic deficit in this issue area is indeed less troubling than in other issue areas because the commonly accepted standard of democratic control in security and defense politics has been low anyway. In contrast, a growing body of literature in peace and conflict research has pointed to the effects of democratic governance on a wide range of security policies. Beginning with the so-called ‘Democratic Peace’, peace and conflict research has indeed made a ‘democratic turn’ by highlighting democracies’ distinct restraint in using military force and their distinct record in establishing and main-taining international cooperation. The paper gives an overview of the ‘democratic distinctiveness programme’ that has emerged in peace and conflict research over the last two decades.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfgang Wagner, 2007. "The democratic deficit in the EU’s security and defense policy – why bother?," RECON Online Working Papers Series 10, RECON.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:reconx:p0010

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