In Pursuit of Democratic Legitimacy? Niklas Luhmann and the European Parliament Elections of 2014

Master's Thesis 2015 77 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: European Union


Table of contents


1) The European Parliament - an Institutional History

2) EU Governance and the Spitzenkandidaten

3) Legitimacy in the EU

4) Niklas Luhmann on Legitimacy

5) Spitzenkandidaten Documents: A Thematic Analysis
Thematic Analysis I: European Parliament
Thematic Analysis II: European Commission
Thematic Analysis III: European Political Parties
Thematic Analysis: Concluding Remarks



A) European Parliament
1) European Parliament resolution, 22 November 2012
2) Martin Schulz Brussels speech, 16 July 2014
3) Klaus Welle Frankfurt speech, 20 September 2013
B) European Commission
1) European Commission communication, 12 March 2013
2) State of the Union 2012 Address, 12 September 2012
C) European Political Parties
1)I. Guy Verhofstadt in European Parliament, 2 July 2014
1) II. Guy Verhofstadt in European Parliament, 15 July 2014
2) Martin Schulz Rome speech, 1 March 2014
3) Jean-Claude Juncker s.l. speech, 23 April 2014


Legitimacy is a cornerstone of political authority. How to create legitimate authority in political systems is therefore a key question - and in this, the European Union (EU) is not unlike a traditional nation state. One solution to this is to increase the European Parliament's (EP) powers. In an attempt to further strengthen the EP and to tackle what is perceived by many as a democratic deficit and a lack of legitimacy of the EU, a significant innovation was added to the 2014 EP elections. The deficit can be described as a lack of citizens' involvement and representation in EU governance. While not every scholar agrees that there is a lack of democratic legitimacy in the EU (see e.g. Moravcsik 2002, Scharpf 2002, Hix and Hoyland 2011, 132), consecutive treaty changes have given the Union's only elected institutional body, Parliament, ever more competences, in order to reduce this deficit. And yet, voter turnout at European elections continuously declined (European Parliament 2014a). The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon stipulates that the European Council must take „into account the elections to the European Parliament“ when proposing a candidate for the Commission Presidency to Parliament (Article 17, paragraph 7 TEU).

In the context of increased Union-level governance and falling voter participation, the EP decided to interpret the Lisbon provisions on the choice of Commission President in a novel (Dinan 2014, 115) and potentially very powerful way and was supported by the Commission in doing so: they proposed to appoint Spitzenkandidaten, lead candidates, for Commission President of each party grouping in the EP (European Parliament 2012, European Commission 2013). The process has been called a “silent revolution” (ECFR 2014) and a “small, legal, public European coup d'état” (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, xii). Through its interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty text, Parliament established a strong link between itself and the Commission Presidency and enhanced the link between the Union's citizenship and the Commission - a connection that had previously only existed through citizens' initiatives and civil society organisations' involvement with the Commission (Bertsou 2014, 3). By strengthening the connection between citizens and the EU's political system it was hoped that these links would contribute to alleviating the EU's democratic deficit and increasing its legitimacy.

Yet this assertion requires some explanation: what is the nature of the EU's democratic deficit, and how has the EP's role evolved through various treaty changes? How can legitimacy be conceptualised and what is its significance? Given the novel character of the 2014 elections and the Spitzenkandidaten process, this thesis proposes that an alternative way of understanding legitimacy in the EU is potentially of greater value than the established theories for answering these questions - the established theories being considerations of how input, or citizen participation, and output, or the quality and efficacy of decisions, interact with representative and deliberative democracy to create legitimacy (see for instance Weiler 2012, Wimmel 2009, Scharpf 1999 and 2012, Eriksen and Fossum 2012).

The option pursued in this thesis is to consider Niklas Luhmann's Legitimation durch Verfahren (1983), legitimacy through processes. Luhmann suggests that properly conducted processes can produce legitimacy for their results, legitimacy being the acceptance of the results reached for wider society on the basis of accepting the process itself. Though Luhmann is best known for his seminal work on social systems in general (2012), he also dedicated work to the societal subsystem of politics, including the processes of democracy and legitimacy (2002, 2015, 1983). The strength of his work is its holistic nature that does not need to distinguish between input and output but instead incorporates both and examines the connections between different elements in a political system that create legitimacy. With very few exceptions (see e.g. Kemmerer 2011), he has been overlooked in the European integration literature. This may be due to the abstract nature ofhis work that seems to be applicable only in the context of a nation-state. Neither, however, is the case: as this thesis attempts to show, Luhmann's work can be applied to specific political processes and, in addition, it can be used in a supranational context to illuminate how the connection between voters, the EP, and the Commission functions to create legitimacy in the EU's political system. The Spitzenkandidaten process and the new links it established serve as a case study to demonstrate Luhmann's applicability in European studies.

To address this question, this thesis proceeds in five chapters, which embed the Spitzenkandidaten process in the history of the EP and the debates surrounding EU legitimacy and democracy, and uses the Spitzenkandidaten idea as a starting point for the study of an alternative view of EU legitimacy. The first chapter traces the history of the EP and its empowerment and explains why voter turnout and the democratic deficit are central to Parliament's development. Taking as a starting point the continuing fall in voter turnout, chapter two outlines the Spitzenkandidaten idea, the motivation behind it, and its history. This includes an overview of how the Spitzenkandidaten process sought to increase the legitimacy of EU governance by providing new, additional links between EU citizens, Parliament, and the Commission.

After briefly examining the existing EU legitimacy literature in chapter three, the dissertation presents Niklas Luhmann's theory of legitimacy in detail in chapter four. This chapter defines five themes that together constitute Luhmann's theory. These are: 1) structures and functions, 2) roles, 3) transfer of reduced complexity, 4) sanctioning decision-making power, and 5) the institutionalisation of legitimacy. The first two themes relate to Luhmann's more general idea of social systems, themes 3) and 4) to the specific political subsystem of elections, and theme 5) to future possibilities of the Spitzenkandidaten process in the political system of the EU. Themes 1) through 4) will make appearances in chapters one and two, giving some indication towards Luhmann's applicability in the EU context. To confirm that indication, the fifth chapter analyses documents that relate to the 2014 elections with regard to the themes identified in the previous chapter. These are speeches and statements by the Spitzenkandidaten of those party groups that, traditionally being considered the most supportive of European integration and collectively holding a significant majority in the EP, voted for Juncker on 15 July 2014 and supported the final College of Commissioners on 22 October 2014 - EPP (European People's Party), PES (Party of European Socialists), and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), with other parties in clear opposition or at least internally divided (Euractiv 2014, European Parliament 2014b) - as well as policy documents of the EP and Commission. The conclusion summarises the findings, suggests which further steps are necessary to validate the claims made by this analysis, and extrapolates tentative further arguments on the basis ofLuhmann's theories.

1) The European Parliament - an Institutional History

The EU has faced charges of democratic deficiency coupled with a lack of legitimacy since the late 1970s (see e.g. Eriksen and Fossum 2012, 14, Crombez 2003, 103, Follesdal and Hix 2006, 534, Grimmel 2014, 244). The main charge has been that the Union is detached from the population and therefore lacks the legitimacy necessary to exercise its political authority (Smismans 2013, 351, Bauer and Becker 2014, 215, Riekman 2007, 122-3). The lack of democratic links in the EU has been and still is a central argument in the EP's bid for more powers and competences in order to gain legitimacy for the EU's political authority, as Parliament remains the only direct representative of citizens at the European level (Hobolt 2014, 1530). Two conclusions can be drawn from this: that Parliament should be granted more powers, and that high voter turnout is necessary to back up Parliament's link with citizens in order to create legitimacy at EU level. These aspects are related: a body with credible powers should be expected to attract more public attention and garner higher levels of voter turnout, and such high levels tend to lend more weight to an empowered Parliament. Parliament has gained significant powers through treaty changes up to and including the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, alleviating one side of the democratic deficit argument. However, these powers did not increase the rate of voter turnout at European elections - the attempt to do so with the Spitzenkandidaten process will be examined in more detail in subsequent chapters.

In the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), set up by the 1951 Treaty of Paris, the forerunner of the EP was established as consultative assembly. Its members were delegated from national parliaments. The assembly served as a forum for discussion and consultation (Neisser 2010, 57, Dobbels 2013, 22, Rittberger 2003, 204, 211). The 1957 Treaties of Rome enhanced these consultation rights (Neisser 2010, 57). In 1962, the assembly changed its name to Parliament (Dobbels 2013, 22). Over the course of the 1970s, “supervisory and participatory powers” were given to Parliament, especially in the area of the community budget, which it was now allowed to “amend, adopt or reject” (Kohler 2014, 602, Neisser 2010, 57, quote in Dobbels 2013, 22). The 1970 Treaty of Luxembourg formed the starting point of this important development (Rittberger 2003, 213).

In 1976, as stipulated by the EEC Treaty (Treaty of Rome Article 138, paragraph 3), despite much controversy and member state resistance, direct elections of Members of the European Parliament were introduced (Neisser 2010, 62). Three years later, in 1979, the first direct elections for MEPs were held (Kohler 2014, 602), with voter turnout of 61.99% (European Parliament 2014a). The size of Parliament grew with the rise in functions and centrality in the institutional framework as well as each new round of member states, from originally 78 to 751 after Croatia's accession to the EU in 2013 (Neisser 2010, 60, European Parliament 2014a).

In 1980, the European Court of Justice's Isoglucose ruling (Roquettes Frères v Council) gave Parliament the power to delay Council decisions as Parliament needed to be heard before the Council could pass legislation - a highly important step as it gave Parliament a first hold on the EU's legislative processes (Corbett et al. 2011, 4, Dobbels 2013, 22). In the 1984 European elections, 58.98% of citizens cast their vote (European Parliament 2014a). In the Single European Act of 1987, the EP gained a stronger position within the legislative framework of the community. Now, the Council was required to send proposals to Parliament, which was empowered to voice its opinion and suggest amendments or even to reject draft legislation in what became the cooperation procedure (Kohler 2014, 602, Neisser 2010 57, Corbett 2011 et al., 4). In the following elections to the EP of 1989, voter turnout was 58.41% - a further, though slight, drop (European Parliament 2014a).

The 1993 Maastricht Treaty significantly expanded the EP's role (Corbett 2011 et al., 4-5), and made it the European Council's legislative and budgetary equal (TEU Article 14). Annual budgets formulated by the Commission must now be passed by both the European Council and Parliament (Neisser 2010, 67). Under the Maastricht Treaty, Parliament gained the right to ask the Commission to submit legislative proposals in any area MEPs consider requiring Union legislation, though Commissioners need not follow a parliamentary request. The first European elections after Maastricht in 1994 saw voter turnout dip further to 56.67% (European Parliament 2014a). The right of request was confirmed in the Lisbon Treaty with the addition that the Commission, if it does not follow the request, must now formally explain why (Kohler 2014, 602). The 'co-decision' procedure of Maastricht became the 'Ordinary Legislative Procedure' with the Lisbon Treaty after having been expanded to cover ever more policy areas with the Treaties of Amsterdam in 1999 and Nice in 2003. The Lisbon Treaty further expanded the use of the OLP so that now the vast majority of EU legislation goes through the OLP (Kohler 2014, 602-4, Leston-Bandeira 2014, 423, Neisser 2010, 57). Through all this, voter turnout further fell, to 49.51% in 1999 and 45.47% in 2004 (European Parliament 2014a). Parliament was now at the centre of European legislation.

As of now, most policy areas dealt with at EU level involve Parliament and since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force in 2009, all EU expenditure must be passed by the EP (Corbett et al. 2011, 5). It must give its consent to, amongst others, any international agreements entered by the EU, to the convening of intergovernmental conferences, and to any area of enhanced cooperation between a limited number of member states, making Parliament indispensable even without full parliamentary initiative (Kohler 2014, 605). Additionally, the EP scrutinises the Commission's work and may request Commissioners and Commission officials to answer questions related to the Commission's work. The Union's institutions are obliged to inform or consult Parliament on various issues, including the European Central Bank. Parliament is empowered to hold a vote of no confidence to relieve the entire College of Commissioners of their post (Neisser 2010, 68). In terms of EU expansion and treaty changes, Parliament must be consulted and Parliament's approval is necessary for states to join the Union ever since the Single European Act of 1987. Parliament also has the right to submit proposals for treaty changes (Neisser 2010, 69-70, Dobbels 2013,23).

Parliament began playing a central role in the choice of Commissioners in the 1990s. The EP had started to hold hearings for each Commission appointee after the ratification of the Treaty of Maastricht, which stipulated that Parliament had to be consulted on Commission nominees. In 1994, it voted to confirm Jacques Santer as Commission President, heard Santer's Commissioner-designates, and finally voted again on the entire Commission. The Amsterdam Treaty formalised this process and

MEPs may now reject the entirety of the College of Commissioners nominated by the European Council, if individual Commission nominees do not pass parliamentary hearings - thus, for instance, in 2004, the EP forced a modification to Barroso's first Commission, by refusing to back Italy's Rocco Buttiglione over doubts about his suitability for the Civil Liberties portfolio (Hix and Hoyland 2011, 43-4). In return for backing individual Commissioners and confirming the Commission President, Parliament may conclude arrangements with future Commissioners concerning inter- institutional cooperation and information exchanges, thus strengthening the ties between the institutions beyond the level described in the treaties. Additionally, other high-level office holders in the EU must be approved by the EP, for instance the President of the European Central Bank or the European Ombudsman (Kohler 2014, 606-7).

This history of parliamentary empowerment raises the question of why member state governments conceded to Parliament its demands for growing legislative influence, which diminished the relative power of national parliaments and governments. In the interest of completeness, but without going into the details of this important issue and recognising that individual member states had and still have different preferences, some explanatory factors are presented here. One aspect is domestic pressure and rhetorical action taken by individual governments, often coupled with normative arguments. For instance, in the run-up to the SEA, the outcome of which for Parliament was the cooperation procedure, the German government under Helmut Kohl backed empowering the EP in a federal state model for the European Community, which drew its legitimation from popular representation in an influential Parliament. Such a model was popular in the German domestic political arena. Kohl had domestically committed to it, leading him to support Parliament's strengthening in the European Council (Rittberger 2005, 166-7). Other reasons may be that the European Council is still paramount in a number of important policy areas, such as the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the adoption of treaty changes, and that the European Council remains the agenda-setting institution within the EU (Hix and Hoyland 2011, 32, 312, Werts 2008, 194-5).

This chapter has argued that the prime motivation for the empowerment of Parliament was to create legitimacy at European level through strengthening the role of citizens' representatives in EU governance. This was the function of the numerous enhancements to parliamentary power: as will be explained in detail in chapter four, the function of a process is a central aspect of Luhmann's theory. Elmar Brok, an EPP MEP, has argued that the EP has emerged as “winner of every institutional reform” since the 1970s (Brok 2010, 77), and yet this did not lead to an increase in voter turnout which was 42.97% in 2009 (European Parliament 2014a). Other measures were needed to increase Parliament's credibility and importance, to capture citizens' hearts and minds, and to motivate them to vote. For if the EP is the prime representation of European citizens at EU level and the central avenue for creating legitimacy for the EU's political authority, then low voter turnout implies a loss of legitimacy due to missing popular support, and a failure to tackle the democratic deficit (Karatzia 2013, 5-6)[1]. This is the context in which the European elections of 2014 took place, and in which the Spitzenkandidaten idea came to fruition (Persson 2009, 16, Buras 2013, 7, Weiler 2012, 830, Bertsou 2014, 5).

With it, one of the most important political positions in the EU, that of Commission President, came to depend on the choice voters made in the ballot box: they would determine who would be allowed to make political decisions, because a successful candidate for the Presidency would require parliamentary majority. While this will become clearer in chapter four, the issues of choice and decision-making power that surface in this context are central to Luhmann's legitimacy theory. By linking the results of the European elections with the choice of Commission President, it was hoped that Parliament could signify its importance in the EU's political system and inspire citizens to vote.

2) EU Governance and the Spitzenkandidaten

Despite increases in the EP's powers, voter turnout continuously fell and the issue of democratic deficiency and therefore legitimacy remained unresolved: the link voting provides between citizens, the EP, and the EU's political system in general was not strong enough to motivate citizens to participate in European elections. Something new needed to be attempted to tackle the deficit and increase legitimacy at the Union level by motivating more citizens to vote, and this something was to nominate Spitzenkandidaten. This chapter examines the origins of the Spitzenkandidaten idea and shows how and to what end it worked. The foregoing chapter also highlighted that important aspects of Luhmann's theory of legitimacy surface throughout the empowerment of Parliament - and it is no different in the story of the Spitzenkandidaten idea.

In the run-up to the 2014 elections, Parliament proclaimed that those elections would differ from previous ones (Hobolt 2014, 1528, Welle 2013). The claim was based on an interpretation of article 17, paragraph 7 of the TEU that links the results of the election with the choice, by the European Council, of Commission President, though on its own this paragraph did not significantly alter the Commission selection process (Gerven 2009, 166 and 173). The fact that the paragraph in itself did not entail any major change in the process is believed to have contributed to the fact that member state governments did not recognise how significant it might become and that they therefore adopted it in the Lisbon Treaty (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 54).

While the paragraph is not explicit in mentioning how the European Council should take the election results “into account” (article 17, paragraph 7, TEU), the EP chose to interpret it in a way that provides a direct link between votes cast in the election and the Commission President selection: if the Spitzenkandidaten idea worked, then voters would know who would be Commission President based on who they voted for. It was further argued that “then we also would have a much higher degree of legitimacy” (Welle 2013, 53, see for this speech in Appendix A 3). Parliament and the Commission hoped that by fielding Spitzenkandidaten, voter turnout would increase and the Commission President would be felt to be more directly accountable and thus closer to the citizens (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 39-40, 72-4). Parliament would support the candidate of the strongest party, who would require the support of an overall majority of MEPs. The European Council was then to nominate this Spitzenkandidat for Commission Presidency, which the EP would then in turn confirm with its vote (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 185). To some extent, this was an attempt to answer core questions asked in the Laeken Declaration of 2001:

“How can the authority and efficiency of the European Commission be enhanced? How should the President of the Commission be appointed: by the European Council, by the European Parliament or should he be directly elected by the citizens? Should the role of the European Parliament be strengthened?“ (European Communities 2001)

The idea was not new and first surfaced in the 1990s. Jacques Santer, candidate for the Commission Presidency, had told the Socialists in the EP that he would refuse the nomination if he did not have a majority in Parliament in 1994. In 1999, the German conservative party, CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands), stated that it felt the next Commission President should be from the EPP as it had gained most votes in the 1999 elections. Prior to the 2004 elections, the EPP announced it would only support a candidate from the party that won the EP elections (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 17-19). Numerous think-tanks and academics, including Jacques Delors' Notre Europe and Simon Hix, published articles in the 1990s that proposed that political parties running in EP elections should choose Spitzenkandidaten for the Commission Presidency and other EU top jobs. This would make voting in EP elections more interesting, stop the downward trend in voter turnout, lead to a more accountable and democratically legitimated EU, and would not require treaty changes unlike the alternative idea to elect the Commission President directly by citizens simultaneously with the EP (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 54-8).

Building on these ideas, Parliament adopted a resolution on 22 November 2012 concerning the elections two years later. In this resolution it made the case that the European political parties should “nominate candidates for the Presidency of the Commission”, and in doing so referred to Article 17 TEU on the link between the election results and the choice of Commission President (European Parliament 2012). On March 12, 2013, the Commission endorsed Parliament's resolution stating that “the nomination of candidates for the office of Commission President by political parties in the context of the European elections of 2014” was “of significant importance” for the “political sphere” of the EU (European Commission 2013, 65). Though not all of the political party groups nominated Spitzenkandidaten, five groups did: Jean-Claude Juncker for the EPP, Martin Schulz for the PES, Guy Verhofstadt for ALDE, Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left (EL), and José Bové and Ska Keller for the European Green Party (EGP); the European Conservatives and Reformists and the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy did not nominate a Spitzenkandidat (Hobolt 2014, 1533).

The Spitzenkandidaten process was designed to pressure the European Council into choosing a candidate who could boast a claim to some form of democratic legitimacy through his or her electoral success (Hobolt 2014, 1533, Schimmelfennig 2014, EU Observer 2014b). That this was the the case was recognised by many commentators in the media, though in some countries this was more so than in others. Thus in an article of March 2013, Die Zeit Brussels correspondent Matthias Krupa was wholly in favour of the Commission endorsement of Parliament's suggestion to field Spitzenkandidaten (Zeit Online 2013). Another German commentator predicted that the Spitzenkandidaten process would change the EU (FAZ 2014). Le Monde recognised the significance of the election while maintaining that the relevant treaty article was ambiguous and needed interpretation (Le Monde 2014).

Critics of the election process, most importantly Britain's David Cameron, noted that the Spitzenkandidaten procedure added to the EP's power, but lamented that this was at the cost of national parliaments and governments (European Parliament 2015, Bertsou 2014, 23-5). The main topic of UK discussion was the UK's opposition to the Spitzenkandidaten idea and the possibility of a UKIP surge (see for instance Hobolt 2014 1535-6, The Guardian 2014a, The Telegraph 2014, BBC 2014), not the intentions of the EP and Commission to politicise the elections and reduce the democratic deficit. Critics bemoaned that while such a selection process would mean Parliament could install and recall Commissioners, Parliamentarians themselves could not be held accountable for their decisions through a dissolution of Parliament, which is not currently allowed by the treaties. As for the legitimacy of the EU, critics argued that the European Council, made up of elected national leaders, was sufficient, and that an empowered Commission would actually weaken the legitimacy created by the European Council (Penalver García and Priestley 2015, 40­4, EU Observer 2014a).

We now know that the candidate of the largest group, the EPP, Jean-Claude Juncker, was indeed nominated and confirmed by the EP, though whether or not this process would actually work was unclear prior to the EP election and indeed for some time after. In EU circles speculation ran rife about how the election and choice of Commission President would actually proceed (Dinan 2014, 109). Nonetheless, it proved successful in the 2014 elections - at least in that Jean-Claude Juncker was chosen for the Presidency despite outright political opposition by influential European politicians, strengthening the EP's position within the EU's institutional framework as it was able to push through its own interpretation of the pertinent TEU article (Hobolt 2014, 1537, EU Observer 2014c). The year 2013 proved how the EP, with the political leadership of its President Martin Schulz and its Secretary-General Klaus Welle, could influence the EU agenda with its move to field Spitzenkandidaten and fill the Lisbon Treaty with more life than the actual wording might suggest (Leston-Bandeira 2014, 417, Dinan 2014, 115), though for the idea to come to full fruition it needed the final support of key member state governments, such as those of France and Germany.

In this context the situation of the European Council, for whom the Spitzenkandidaten process posed a dilemma, must be briefly examined. It could either accept the EP's candidate and concede the success of the process, at least for once, thus condoning Parliament's acts and limiting its own influence. Or it could reject the candidate chosen by MEPs and by doing so risk an open breach with Parliament and much of the European public and press. That the European Council, including key leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany, Francois Hollande of France, and Matteo Renzi of Italy (The Guardian 2014b), accepted Juncker requires explanation. A number of factors may have contributed to this outcome. First, governments may have seen in the long serving ex-Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Juncker, one of their own, whom they could implicitly trust. Second, the process of choosing the Commission President used in2014 would be reviewed prior to the next elections in 2019 (EU Observer 2014b). This meant that it was and still is uncertain that the Spitzenkandidaten process is here to stay. Third, no matter what the process in 2014, the European Council is still co-legislator and without it no EU law or regulation can be passed. And fourth, most EU leaders had publicly endorsed one of the candidates (EU Observer 2014d). Only Britain's David Cameron and Hungary's Victor Orban remained opposed until the end (European Parliamentary Research Service 2014, 4). Cameron's Conservatives had not appointed a Spitzenkandidat as they argued it undermined European democracy as expressed in the European Council, whose membership after all consists of elected national leaders. This lack of a British party's candidate may also account for the lack of interest in the process in the UK: the British governing party had no candidate whom voters could elect to the Commission Presidency (European Parliament 2015, The Wall Street Journal 2014).

The Spitzenkandidaten process was designed to link citizens' votes to the choice of Commission President. By doing so, the legitimacy of European political authority was to be enhanced. These issues correspond to central aspects of Luhmann's legitimacy theory. Reducing the democratic deficit by attempting to raise turnout levels was the motivation behind the Spitzenkandidaten process: the former was the latter's function. As Spitzenkandidaten, individuals assumed important roles as representatives of their parties' political programme and candidates for a position of political power - as will be explained in chapter four, roles and functions play important parts in Luhmann's thoughts on legitimacy. As this is the case, the Spitzenkandidaten process is ideally situated to form the basis of the documentary analysis in this dissertation's last chapter, which will determine whether or not

Luhmann's approach is indeed viable for EU democracy. This raises the question of what legitimacy is and how democracy can be conceptualised in an EU context.


[1] The author thanks Anastasia Karatzia, PhD candidate at the University of Surrey, for permission to refer to this conference paper.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
714 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
Queen's University Belfast – School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy
pursuit democratic legitimacy niklas luhmann european parliament elections



Title: In Pursuit of Democratic Legitimacy? Niklas Luhmann and the European Parliament Elections of 2014