The Maastricht treaty famously claimed that the goal of European integration was to create ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen’. But critics charge the EU with being an elitist construct, offering ordinary Europeans too few opportunities directly to influence its work, and creating a problem that has been serious enough to earn its own label: the democratic deficit. It sometimes seems as though the work of the EU goes on despite public opinion, which is often confused, increasingly doubtful, and in some cases actively hostile towards integration. But how we rate the EU in terms of its democratic qualities depends on how we define it as a political entity: if it was a federal union, its democratic credentials would be weak, but if we see it as a confederal system, then its procedures are almost everything we would or could expect.
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- The EU and its Citizens
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