Are we going to solve this “democratic deficit” just by calling for elections or making some European parties and policy makers closer to the citizens? That might certainly help although it would not be enough. Why? I will try to respond this question through the next graph:
What we see here is an important gap when ‘trusting in government’ between two groups of European countries: those which belong to the called “Northern Europe” – whether they are in the Euro area or the non-Euro – and the others pertaining to the “Southern Europe”. Put it another way: the states of Northern Europe are far away from the misnamed PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) of Southern Europe when it comes to trust in their own democratic governments.
Hence the actual democratic deficit within the European Union has to deal actually with two kinds of ‘vision’ or ‘European realities’: one defended by the countries of Northern Europe, which have become credit providers, and another seemingly different reality, promoted by Southern European countries which are becoming more and more indebted. That is to say, the countries with a better credit rating are in the North, while the indebted countries are mostly in the South.
This situation does not contribute at all to start building a better and credible democratic Europe. As Sonia Alonso put it in the article, “La fractura democrática en la UE: ¿encaminados hacia la tormenta perfecta?” (“The EU democratic fracture: headed for perfect storm?”), the Northern and the Southern countries are confronting. There is a sort of ‘domestic’ colonialism that is emerging within the EU. This process is getting worse because of an apparent, but increasingly ideological divorce between the North and the South. In this respect, Sonia also notes that “historically, these overlaps amidst territory, economy and ideology have seldom conducted to a resolution of economic and political conflicts in a soft way. On the contrary, they tense the posture defended by each country towards polarized directions. Therefore it seems that we are heading for perfect storm”.
Back to the graphic we may look at the upper and lower levels in 06/2012 to rapidly realize that the percentages of respondents are truly influenced by the context. In fact, there is a difference of 32% in 2012 depending on whom the Eurobarometer is asking for: again, the countries of Northern and Southern Europe. We should get the point: there is an important breakdown, rupture, or gap, between the two visions of Europe, and such a process has been breaking down the idea of a united and unique Europe, mainly since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis.
We cannot pretend to solve the EU democratic deficit until we firstly face and settle our differences. The economic experiments such as austerity or another sort of bad reforms are stifling the national economies in the Southern Europe, while undermining their trust in democracies, as we have seen on the graph above. So what do we do?
As Antón Costas put it in the article, “En qué momento se jodió la Unión Europea” (“When did the EU got broken”), “we must be able to start a European New Deal, capable to rethink the 21st century European project, according to the growth, employment, macroeconomic stability, equality and democracy. This is the only way that may secure the sustainability of the euro and the European project”.
Moreover, the Nobel Prize laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman (2002) said that, “the people who have the greatest influence on the lives of others are likely to be optimistic and overconfident, and to take more risks than they realize”. I guess the EU only will be credible while being both, optimistic and risky. Not an easy one though. Otherwise it will be condemned to remain as something distant, austere, cold and above all, politically skeptical. Are we ready?