Reflections on multilevel legitimacy
The function of legitimacy is to ensure voluntary compliance with unwelcome exercises of governing authority. Since practically all European law needs to be implemented and enforced by the governments and courts of the member states, the EU does not have to face its citizens directly. It follows that the legitimacy of European governance ought to be conceptualized at two levels. At one level, the legitimacy of member states is decisive for the compliance of individuals and fi rms, regardless of the ultimate origin - international, European or national - of the rules that demand this compliance. At the other level, the legitimacy of the European 'government of governments' is decisive for the voluntary compliance of member states with the obligations imposed on them by the EU. What should be worrying however is the impact which EU governance - especially the rules of negative integration defi ned by politically non-accountable actors - may have on the legitimacy of member states, and ultimately on their capacity to comply.
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