The lack of a clear public sphere or demos across the EU has long been used as a stick to beat down any suggestion that there could one day be proper pan-European democracy, as well as to decry the EU’s supposed lack of legitimacy. (Here’s an article on the EU demos from 2005, and one on the public sphere from me from 2007.)
However, while the eurocrisis of the last few years has certainly led to a rise in euroscepticism and eurosceptic parties across the EU, the always insightful Ronny Patz rightly points out that a side-effect has been a rise in pan-European debate about issues (notably the economy and migration) which now few can deny have cross-border implications:
“It’s been mostly discussed that the crisis will strengthen Eurosceptic parties, but these discussions show that we may be heading into what could become a pan-European debate about persons and about policies, in which traditional and new forces participate alike.”
In my books, that can only be a good thing. Yes – even if it means more eurosceptics, because I’ve argued many times that vocal euroscepticism and strong criticism is essential if the EU is ever going to have any hope of being a success.
This debate may have often been couched in terms of resentment that such things are cross-border rather than simply national concerns, but not always – and the acknowledgement of this is in itself significant for an organisation that in large part exists due to the recognition that some issues are bigger than nations. First step, denial; second step, resentment; third step, acceptance; fourth step, constructive engagement to try and make things better, rather than merely bitching about it?