“THE European Union (EU) is generally presented as the most advanced case of regional integration in the world. It has progressed from a system of sectoral co-operation in energy governance among six states in the early 1950s to a multifaceted body of 28 members, with unprecedented powers in areas such as economic and social development, monetary governance, legal affairs and foreign policy.
Its approach to integration has been driven by bureaucratic and economic elites, mostly through technical co-operation among key national departments. There is little doubt that such a top-down approach was a key strength during the takeoff phase of integration, as technocrats managed to forge co-operative mechanisms despite the volatility of politics and the fierce ideological battles of the time. Citizens’ involvement came late, with the first parliamentary elections only in 1979. Albeit marginally on the increase, genuine popular participation in Europe’s affairs has been deliberately kept at bay by its architects. Over time, this has resulted in the populace endorsing a rather utilitarian approach towards the EU: happy to be part of it for as long as the benefits largely outweighed the costs.
Since the late 1990s, however, things have changed dramatically. A continent traditionally marked by progressive social policies, functioning welfare states and high living standards has been turned into a very unequal one, with shrinking budgets to support healthcare and education, but vast resources to subsidise financial markets.” […]
Read the full article on Business Day, 30.07.2015