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Europe Reset, by Richard Youngs

This is the fourth of my political blog posts for this week, having previously reviewed Free Radical by Vince Cable, The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart and After Europe by Ivan Krastev. I had actually read these four books separately over February and March, but I think that weeks of meditation on them collectively has enriched my thinking on them; I hope you think so too.

Second paragraph of third chapter of Europe Reset: New Directions for the EU, by Richard Youngs:
It has become increasingly clear that the EU suffers from major deficiencies in democratic accountability. Analysts have been writing about the EU's so-called democratic deficit for many years, alluding to the fact that as policies are centralised to the EU level, national democratic controls are lost without being replaced by effective European-level democracy. While the problem is not new, however, the EU's democratic shortcomings have now come to have a more tangible impact, contributing in a major way to citizen revolts and political upheavals within member states. In 2004, the number of Europeans who believed that their voice counted in the EU was 39 per cent; by 2014 it had dropped to a worryingly low 29 per cent. Over the same period those who felt 'disempowered' by the Union increased from 52 to 66 per cent.'
Richard is probably the best thinker on the nuts and bolts of comparative democratic practices in Europe and the Middle East, so it’s a Good Thing that he has turned his analysis to the EU as a whole. His analysis is similar to Ivan Krastev’s, but a bit more detailed, a bit less despairing and a bit more solution-oriented. He starts by looking at the problems, the “poly-crisis” as he calls it, including Brexit, the refugee problem, the euro (unlike Goodhart, putting it properly in context) and populism. He then devotes a chapter to false solutions, in particular the inadequacy of just muddling through, let alone more classical Euro-integration and the failure of austerity.

The most interesting section for me is his analysis of Europe’s democracy problem. As well as looking at the ways in which the EU’s democratic structures don’t deliver as they should (‘output legitimacy’, in the term introduced by Scharpf) he also recommends looking at more participative methods for policy-making, including concepts like the Citizen’s Assembly. I actually wrote about this in a European context as long ago as 2006, so I’m glad that someone with more weight than me has picked up the concept and run with it. I think that the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland has more than proved its worth, and it’s interesting that this is one of President Macron’s big ideas as well.

His other two points, less worked out, are that the EU should tolerate more internal divergence and should also deliver in terms of security for its citizens. The first is still debatable (though interestingly it’s the one suggestion also made by Ivan Krastev), the second should go without saying.

The book was launched at an event at Carnegie Europe way back in January; you can hear the discussion here (including a question from me at 0:37:30 and Richard’s reply at 0:46:30). You can get it here.

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