The Trans-National Political Parties and Parliament at EU Level

Just a single permit to live and work in the EU
Immature? : The Trans-National Political Parties and Parliament at EU Level - Julia Speht


A reassessment of the age of the European Parliament could theoretically put the EU as a political system on a par with other new democracies in transition. Applying such theories of transitology through the comparative politics paradigm to analyze the EU might offer a more appropriate benchmark for studies into institutional developments, particularly of trans-national agents such as the new EU level parties. By considering the characteristics of the EU, this essay evaluates the merits of a transition-comparison with reference to several aspects of the EU: institutions; actors; civil society and legitimacy. The discussion considers the implications and problems of this new approach.


In 2002 a clutch of academics celebrated the European Parliament's (EP) fiftieth birthday with a round of reviews on the parliament's progress1. These reports catalogued the usual, recognised developmental leaps enjoyed by the EP in various treaty reforms; shifts in legislative procedures; increased policy mandates; and growing inter­institutional influence in recent decades.

However, while acknowledging without doubt the vast recent progress, this essay contests the cosmetic age of the supranational parlia­ment at EU level. Instead it will argue that the EU's democratic life did not begin before its first free, fair and direct elections in 1979, thus making the real age of the EP barely 25 years. With this relatively young institution, and party structures little more than twelve years old, a reassessment of the EU's characteristic development and its worthy comparison for analytical purposes is well overdue. Holistic analysis reveals the inconsistency of existing perspectives, proposing instead an innovative comparison based on the EP's characteristic youth. This offers a more systematic and appropriate framework for explanations of the EU, EP and party behaviour. Not unlike the EU, new democracies could be described as systems in a state of 'flux'. Furthermore, the uneven 'backwards' development of elite policy-driven mechanisms at the expense of democratically participatory organs, reflects both types of new system.

Analytical Models of the EU & EP: An Imperfect Fit

The development of, and academic research into, the EU's parlia­ment presents a strange paradox: The EP is considered to have existed for almost half a century and developed politically in that time. However, on the thorny issue of that persistent offender, the 'democratic deficit', the apparently middle-aged parliament is reminded of its ever-decreas­ing voter turnout; lack of public participation - and even identity - by its citizens; its ongoing difficulties to demonstrate a source of democratic legitimacy; and its elite-driven party culture. As Christopher Lord puts it, 'the EU has gone further towards satisfying the elite coherence condi­tion for developed political parties than the electoral connection. The next task is to explain this pattern of uneven development2.'

Explanations for this imbalanced party development can broadly be divided into two camps: those within the International Relations (IR) School and those from Comparative Politics. The former dismiss politi­cal parties as 'domestic creatures' and point instead to the rising culture of interest organization and mediation at the EU-level which appears to have blossomed 'where parties [have] fail[ed]' according to policy net­work analysis. The second set however -the comparativists - have spread their analyses much wider, by following Simon Hix's call in the early 1990s for a more systematic application of the comparative politics paradigm to replace the 'hardly coherent, motley collection of work' which previously treated politics at the EU-level. His vision was to consider the internal politics of the EU as though 'not inherently differ­ent to ... any other democratic system3'. The comparativists have since sketched their multiple visions over a very broad canvas: diverse com­parisons have stretched from parliamentary to pluralist to presidential systems; from federations to consocational confederations to decentral­ized polities.

Although existing EU research appears to have reached an uneasy consensus on the usefulness of this comparative politics framework relying heavily on traditionally 'state level' political theories, few agree on precisely which democratic model should be best applied wholesale to the emerging EU. The diversity of comparisons stems from the EU's multi-level governance procedures and constant evolution, as well as the vast heterogeneity of the component member states and their institu­tional arrangements. The type of democratic regime selected to provide an appropriate analytical model depends variously on the concept of democracy chosen; which institutional model selected, and whether one accepts that the EU is truly sui generis, mirrors a pre-existing state or is a hybrid of the two. The dichotomy between the comparative and IR approaches characterized most EU studies of the 1990s.4 In 1994 Hurrell and Menon quoted Sbragia to neatly summarize the uneasy consensus of the period. 'Although the EC is unique [in terms of other democratic political systems] analysis is more likely to suffer from studying it in isolation from other systems than from using the comparative method in less than ideal circumstances5.' The focus of this theoretical exchange was primarily institutional-orientated, occasionally policy-specific, but rarely investigated agents such as parties. The discussions around the EU's institutional arrangements revealed competing visions for whole­sale template-matching models from existing regimes. Furthermore, these displayed a prescriptive nature, since academic debate clearly overlapped with and impacted upon, internal political discussions for future institutional reforms.

Parties Without a Polity?

This has a knock-on effect for discussions about EU level parties - these transnational bodies were born at Maastricht, in the sense that they were attributed legal recognition, embodied in the following treaty article:

Political parties at the European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They con­tribute to forming a European awareness and to express­ing the political will of the citizens of the Union.

(Article 138a, TEU 1992).

The definition of a 'trans-national party at the EU-level' refers to the network of political actors from a plurality of EU member-states6 that collectively form over-arching umbrella organizations along ideological party family lines. These transnational parties remain plagued by a central paradox: while they have evolved into highly efficient political machines capable of co-coordinating up to twenty-five national member parties to influence EU policy decisions, the vital contradiction remains that the wider voting public is largely unaware of their existence. The parties' failure to secure adequate democratic legitimacy to support their political mandate is borne in an ever-decreasing turnout in European parliamentary elections, which has now reached an all-time low with current figures7 falling below 50% and is compounded by the perception of a growing 'democratic deficit' between institutional mandates at EU and national levels which threatens their continued existence.

Additional limitations to their behavior include their lack of com­petitive behavior lack of public support and mobilization and lack of influence over policy.

Although they appear to represent separate theoretical debates, the above points are in fact linked. If we consider the EU to be essentially a non-parliamentary arena, then we are stating its uniqueness and its reliance on mere output legitimacy given the weakness of representative structures, such as political parties. In this sui generis arena, non-parties (alternatives such as interest groups) aim to fulfill traditional party roles. This would contrast with the alternative vision, one of a parliamentary democracy at the EU level, based upon input legitimacy through tradi­tional representative and participatory channels, such as political parties etc. Between the two, there exists a continuum, which allows for plural­istic overlap; combination theories of legitimacy, a presidential style Congress and consocational negotiations.

More recent academic debates in the late 1990s and early 2000s responded to increasing concerns over the democratic deficit, and politi­cal discussions turned their attention to the issue of legitimacy provision. Again, the polarized position of the main protagonists slot into the jigsaw of existing theoretical models: those who advocated the need for (and current lack of) input legitimacy, find their views reflected in comparativists' theories, with pure comparison in this framework, reject­ing the sui generis label. This clearly contrasts with those who find themselves justifying the EU's provision of output/performance legiti­macy, just as their (neo) functionalist predecessors did before them.

Imperfect Fit

Many existing institutional models seem unsatisfactory because the EP's relative youth causes it to measure up frustratingly against mature parliamentary benchmarks. Hence the contention between parliamen­tary and presidential models does not get to the real nub of the problem, given that in essence the real issue is one of age, not of institutional type. So if the EU and its parliament do not fit any 1of the conceptual models or templates on offer, we shall move away from template-borrowing, and instead re-consider the essential characteristics of the emerging EU polity. By identifying relevant existing counterparts, we may gain useful insights in a more general comparative sense than wholesale model 'match and fit' attempts. This more open approach benefits from all the advantages offered by the comparative framework, namely that every component of institutional design and political analysis is available for a unique compilation of elements into a novel - yet not sui generis - system (since each feature does exist elsewhere, but not in this combination). Hence we are not expecting a 'perfect fit' from wholesale model borrow­ing for an emerging union in flux, but rather an imperfect hybrid of political systems.


While identifying the EU's most characteristic components is un­doubtedly a subjective task, it remains a worthy one, if only to move beyond the paralyzing sui generis label. One excellent earlier attempt to reduce the EU to a straightforward comparison in this way was carried out by Tsebelis. He convincingly argued [with reference to the so-called 'democratic deficit'] that the EU's deficit of democracy came solely from its federal nature, and was in fact characteristic of all federal-type re­gimes, in no way related to the EU element of the system. Instead the problem is related to the 'compounding effect' of federation on the concept of representation, as originally stated by Elazar and Riker. Further, in this scenario, political parties remain crucial to the represen­tation process as the link between individuals and the decision-making elite. By a similar token, this essay shall endeavor to move beyond the EU label, and extract comparative components that reflect the regime's typical characteristics.


As the parliament of the supranational EU, the EP's development 'acts as a barometer for the progress of the whole system'8• One of the main, perhaps most salient features of the EP is its relative youth and continuing development: Despite the recent indications of a mid-life crisis, the EP is not actually fifty years old. True, the Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was created in 1952, and is technically the predecessor of the current EP, however the original ECSC assembly was a component of an international organization, not the parliamentary legislator of an emerging political system. These two distinct phases must be separated for analytical purposes: comparative analyses of the EU as a political system cannot include its earlier behav­ior as an inter-governmental organization.

Evolution from the ECSC to the adoption of the EP's current name occurred in 1962, but as Lodge explains, 'the member states did not follow suit until the 198os'9 given that throughout the 1970s it was considered little more than a relatively impotent assembly. Thus the EP's recognition as a parliament can be traced back to its first direct elections, held in 1979.10 This re-adjustment brings the EP's real age to little more than maturity - 25 years old - and half that of the official birthday cel­ebrations. As the electoral element that legitimises the supranational institutions, this also resonates for the age of the 'political system' of the EU. Thus, we are investigating a new democratic polity with a young parliament, and embryonic parties, which were not created until as late as 1992, and thus barely twelve years old.

There are several implications that stem from this assertion. First, the fragile legitimacy of the new system and institutions; second, the reluctance of the general public to participate and feel identity with this new system; third, the erratic and imbalanced developments within institutions and the party system; and fourth the insecure self-image of the EU's immature institutions. These limitations appear both unsurprising and inevitable, given that neither formally nor informally can we truly consider the EP to be equivalent to the long-established and stable parliamentary democracies of most West European member states. Rather, it shall be demonstrated that the EU's weak performing party system is a product of its 'relative youth' in a newly democratised [and not yet consolidated] political regime. Thus a more fruitful com­parative approach will here outline useful theoretical insights from other newly emerging democracies. This reflects the very essence of comparative politics approaches, to compare like with like in order to gain some useful insights from different experiences in parallel situations.


Even an adoption of the political terminology of new democracies provides us with two clearly distinct phases of development for any newly emerging democratic policy: transition and consolidation. A series of classifications put forward by Jeff Haynes distinguish these as follows: 'Transition' - from the first free and fair elections; and' Consolidation' - when the democratic institutions are not just established, but also valued and loved11.

In this sense, arrival at a state of consolidated democratic legitimacy could be recognized when the institutions of government are accepted by politicians and ordinary citizens alike - i.e. when they' learn to love it'. Therefore a' democratic consolidation' of the EU could foresee a phase of long-term stable democracy in a strengthened legitimate regime, as distinct from its' transition' phase where controversy might still surround regime type/ organization/ shape; and no consensus yet reached as to the accepted legitimacy of its structure. This could reflect the current stage of development of the EU as an emerging new regime type. While the EU may be considered as a political system in mid-transition, it has by no means yet fulfilled the normative criteria required for a consolidated regime.


In 2002 Rohrschneider's groundbreaking article boldly called for a more open-minded approach to comparative applications from 'new democracies' to the EU12, exploring patterns of citizens' appraisal of the representative process and the consequences of this evaluation of EU support. He claims that' by linking the emerging EU-order to the demo­cratic transition literature, we assess whether a central lesson from democratic transitions among nation-states can be transferred to an evolving supra-national regime'. On this key issue of' whether these patterns from central Europe (or other countries) can be applied to the EU' he points out that' one might contend that the EU is a 'system-in­progress'. He confirms that' several patterns ... broadly parallel those revealed by analyses in Central Europe... this similarity provides a com­pelling case for the generalizability of this process...' concluding that this offers significant implications for future potential problems arising from EU Enlargement.

The pertinence of the bold exposure of the overlap between transi­tion and EU analyses has the effect of opening a Pandora's Box. Now that the image of the EU as a newly emerging polity can be related to other newly democratized regimes, then parallels can be drawn on a multitude of similar processes, elements, and stages of development. While rare, a few other academics have made similar theoretical observa­tions on the relevance of such a comparison, such as Lambert & Hoskyns'13 argument in favor of the EP's 'transition' from consultation to cooperation to co-decision and Lodge's claims that in justification of the direct elections, 'democratization became a leitmotif14. Even an adoption of transitology terminology befits the young parliament in this new democracy. This is juxtaposed with important findings by Gabel and by Tyler who demonstrated that support (in terms of legitimacy and accep­tance) for a political regime is often matched by compliance with system requirements, and that these two are causally linked. Translated into EU behavior and support mechanisms, it could be argued that 'compliance' with EP democratic functions means participation in EP elections. Thus low turnout could be understood to reflect low support for the EP as an institution and the EU as a political system, if we were to refer to the EU as the 'fourth wave' of European democratization.

Richard Rose points to the functional benefits of increased account­ability as a factor for increasing popular support: 'if governors are not ready to be held accountable to the electorate [or to the law], then popu­lar support will be lower and rightly so.15 The implication behind this statement, which refers to 'New Europe',16 is that the consequences of increased democratic accountability would provide functional ('perfor­mance' or output based) efficiency as well as increasing democratic legitimacy. This implies synthesis, or at least an overlap between the two theories of legitimacy. Similarly Schmitt & Thomassen demonstrate considerable 'dynamic' (functional) representation from voters' prefer­ences to elites' policy positions17. On 'grand' policy directions and the issue of how much integration, this representation is strongest; only on the detailed policy points was representation found to be lacking. But this inevitably begs the question: where representation is found to be functional, is this acceptably democratic?


Bielasiak's analysis of consolidated democracies demonstrated that there existed a widespread consensus as to the requirement of a strong party system to provide institutional stability and representation of citizens' preferences18. However, controversy surrounds the extent of these roles, from 'the beginning of democratization' according to Kitschelt's 1999 analysis, or 'a long-term process of uncertainty and chaos'19. Bielasiak states firmly that the 'extent of participation in the electoral process is a validation of the new party system... the assumption is that greater engagement in electoral choice enhances governance' (p. 7). By comparing the progress of new democracies against those of existing and established ones, he asserts that, 'a basic right associated with democratization is the population's ability to participate fully in the political process' (p26). He confirms that 'political participation can be an important indicator of the quality of democracy, in so far as it delin­eates the inclusiveness of political practices and the accountability of government' (p.26). However, he accompanies this with an important reservation, relying upon Dahl's definition of polyarchy20: that a categori­cal distinction is made between voting and non-voting forms of political participation. 'Of course this does not signify that voting turnout is equated with democracy; free political competition assured by civil guarantees is necessary for meaningful participation, and other non­voting forms of participation are important venues for democratic ex­pression (p.26).

This point is fundamental: while the 'amount' of participation is vital for new democracies, it is not measured by voting practices alone. This is presumably based upon the reluctance of new citizens to partici­pate in, and become attached to, voting practices. Instead, greater value is attached here to other forms of participation. Given the volume of academic research to bemoan the ever-decreasing voter turnout for EP elections (and the apparent disillusionment and unattachment this reveals towards the EU as an emerging system) this wider definition of participation criteria is excellent news for the EP. Perhaps, after all, alternative avenues of participation may reveal different results for participation? As in new democracies, the problem with EP elections was not the EP at all, but elections per se. Indeed, in Bielasiak's assessment of new democracies, he states that mass participation, 'at the very least' defines the social and political groups that engage in the minimal prac­tice of politics that need to be taken into account by an elite interested in political longevity. He concludes by re-asserting that in particular, in the third wave of democratization, where 'the dominant ideological norms around the globe create extensive pressures for at least the semblance of electoral democracy' yet despite this broad ideal, the empirical practice falls short. Further, this is elaborated upon by Birch's attempts to ex­plain several well-known characteristics of the mechanics of representa­tion in the new democracies of CEE21. In particular, she refers to the well documented popular apathy, or 'demobilization', resulting from several years of enforced mobilizations, thus leading to suspicion regarding organized collective action, as an obstacle to political mobilization.

The second such characteristic refers to poor linkage and levels of party identification, due to lack of experience as well as weak grass-roots organization. The final characteristic is the high level of fluidity and volatility in party systems, electoral performance and fractionalization of weak parties. This small catalogue of generalizations aimed to indicate some of the problems most commonly faced in the CEE region during transition. The two main consequences for the functioning of represen­tative mechanisms were according to this analysis, on the one hand, declining levels of political participation, and on the other hand, weak and volatile party systems.


The Swiss Consocational-confederation model does reflect all the elements required of and relevant to the EU: the parliament is not the ultimate authoritative decision-making power; parties are elite-domi­nated, cartelized non-competitive and highly de-centralized, and not the forum for cleavage-based civil society conflict accommodation. Although these challenges are typical of both the EU and Swiss party system, there are very few other examples of this type of party system. Vasovi' argued convincingly that in fact it is exactly this form of 'polyarchical or consocational democracy' that is proposed as the appropriate systemic arrangements for newly emerging party systems in de-centralized, quasi­confederations which are appearing in central and eastern Europe, e.g. former Yugoslavia, etc.

This demonstrates - as ever - that the EU is not the only new confederal system to emerge in the last twenty years. Unsurprisingly it shares many characteristics with its counterparts of the same era. One such view is the suggestion that this immaturity perpetuates a need amongst MEPs to justify their existence and activities by acting in con­sensus to build the legitimacy and credibility of their fragile institution, ensuring ' ..the projection of a strong image vis-a-vis other EC or national institutions...' according to Bardi22. Within the consolidation literature, a debate contends which evolutionary framework would be most support­ive, pure parliamentarism or pure Presidentialism. This is reminiscent of the same debate visible at EU-level as to which institutional arrangements would be most 'supportive' or 'suitable' for long-term development and consolidation. Stepan & Skach highlight several empirical tenden­cies observed in new democracies, including: 'greater ability to rule (with majorities) in a multi-party setting; lower propensity for executives to 'rule at the edge oft he constitution'; and greater tendency to provide long party-government careers, which add loyalty and experience to political society'. And finally, the system overall 'increases the degrees offr eedom politicians have as they attempt to consolidate democracy'23.

In a review of the third wave of democratization Rose & Chin point out the irony of 'democratization backwards', i.e. introducing free elec­tions before establishing such basic institutions as the rule of law and civil society. They warn that completion of the democratic process is not the only option in this situation, but that governments could instead choose to persist indefinitely as a 'broken-back' democracy, with free elections but deficient in the rule of law, civil society and/or accountabil­ity (p.333). The parallel concerns of systemic preferences and advan­tages may be significantly applied to institutional considerations of the EU, given that direct elections were introduced in 1979 when many citizens only accepted the European Community as a constructed eco­nomic market, and did not recognize the political union. This concept stretching makes a useful contribution to the discussion: could it (also) be the case that the parliamentary arrangements established (and so characteristic, yet so characteristically 'young') at the EU level, may in fact provide several systemic advantages, as outlined in the case of transition institutions?


The notion that specific institutional arrangements may produce systemic advantages is confirmed by research focusing on new political movements (Greens, regional parties, etc) and studies following the second and third waves of democratization, such as Rose's which cata­logues the progress of what Paul Lewis called 'emerging proto-parties' in his 1998 analysis. The distinct characteristics of first, second, and third wave democracies may offer some useful implications to further our understanding oft he emergent parties oft he fourth wave - the EU.

Various - individual and comparative - analyses have shown a surprising pattern in the organizational development of parties emerging in the new democratic regimes. The defining characteristics of these parties differ from those in established democracies 'by degree only' according to van Biezen24 in the sense that these innovative organizations reflect all the characteristics of Katz & Mair's ultimate, modern-day State-collusive, low membership, uncompetitive, cartel party25. The new democracy equivalents meet these criteria, yet sooner, and in a more exaggerated form than the mature parties which formed the basis of the original Katz & Mair assessment, these newer parties appear to embody the cartel party par excellence. Van Biezen surveys Southern and East­ern European parties to compare and catalogue their characteristics, which include: (1) State collusion, established and institutionalized from the outset; (2) Limited relations with civil society are not the primary, or secondary, concern; (3) with electoral success becoming the predominant goal of parties whose creation, and funding sprang from parliamentary groups. Thus, membership is no longer a question of any relevance, since these newer democratic parties offer very few benefits to very few members, thus (4) blurring the boundaries of membership, now consid­ered a superfluous luxury. (5) Heavily dependent on the state, and (6) swiftly active in Government, their (7) staff are professional elites, replac­ing activists from the membership.

The central criticism frequently made of EU-level parties is that they are severely limited in their capacity for competitive electoral behavior. This is borne in their consensual policy approaches, grand voting coali­tions and pact-like behavior. Interestingly, pact-making of this nature is common in transition democracies, and, according to Encarnacion, 'have a favorable impact in ushering in democracy'26. This is consolidated by O'Donnell & Schmitter's observation that, 'where [pacts] are a feature of the transition... they enhance the probability that the process will lead to a viable political democracy'27. In this context then, a re-evaluation of EU level pact-like behavior by EU parties becomes not only standard for a transition regime, but even desirable. This extreme party picture repre­sents a Darwinian evolutionary streamlining of the original genetic model. Analysts such as van Biezen and Lewis describe the "evolutionary leap" achieved by these new parties; jumping straight to the "cartel" phase, born directly into the political environment which mature West­ern European parties have been adapting to gradually, and painfully, for decades. In this sense, parties at the European level could also be de­scribed as "leapfrogging", as they reflect many of the characteristics on this list, in particular, those suggested by Perkins (1996) who emphasized the (8th characteristic); the growing importance of the electronic media for new linkless parties. He showed how modern media replaced mem­bership, and refers to their "leapfrogging" of the painful generations of mass membership mobilization jumping straight to the much easier (9th characteristic) task of mobilizing voters.

To date, the citizens of the EU have only been invited to approve of political decisions ex-poste28. A more direct democracy, but more consul­tative type of democratic approach would ensure ex-ante decision­making influence too. But would this not be precisely the role of actors involved in trans-national political parties? As such, the 'added value' of political party involvement would also therefore encompass an element of quality of democracy in terms of opportunistic timing: the consultative 'early bird' to catch the elusive worm. Qualitatively, ex-ante political influence is considered to be of greater political value than ex-paste. This is the strength of transnational party activity, and another advantage it can offer. Just as in new democracies, it is easier to establish output legitimacy first as a pre-cursor to input legitimacy, as this provides a kind of functional demonstration of the democratization-consolidation phases of development of the system. Hix refers to the 'EU's upside-down political system29' which can be seen to mirror Rose's original expression of 'democratization backwards'. Similarly, while the EU may well reflect other confederal states, it is by no means unique. Rather, its de-central­ized confederal model is in fact the blueprint offered to newly emerging democracies in the CEE.


This short essay proposes a rejection of the usual wholesale concep­tual template borrowing, in favor of 'pick and mix' notion of comparative analysis of each element of the EU regime based upon its unique charac­teristics. This creates a unique combination of elements, not a sui generis regime per se. Further, this study advocates a rejection of the existing academic dichotomy between its two oldest and entrenched positions. Rather, it is argued that the EP ought to be reassessed in the light of its real age since transition to democracy. As the only democrati­cally elected institution, this has implications for the democratic age of the EU, and in essence puts the EU on a parallel with other new democ­racies. This invites a comparison of the EU system with theories and evidence from analysis of new democratic regimes. This novel compari­son is more realistic, more appropriate, less demanding and lifts aca­demic debate out of the mire of directly opposing visions for the EU. Instead we find useful insights from analysis of new regimes which may further our understanding of the EU, in particular these highlight the fragile legitimacy of the new regime and state; the reluctance of civil society to participate; the insecure self-image of emerging institutions; the erratic and imbalanced development of institutional actors; and the resistance of international recognition for the new regime's legitimacy.


This essay demonstrates that the EU and EP fit neither existing theoretical visions perfectly, and thus an alternative perspective is pro­posed which calls for a re-assessment of the real age of the EP (and therefore, 'democratic age' of the EU system). By demonstrating the EP's relative youth, its immaturity and insecurity is used to explain conceptual solutions to the three theoretical dilemmas. Thus, a theoretical frame­work for comparative analysis of the EU to other new democracies is elaborated, in order to better serve the analysis of the emerging party organizations at EU level and place their behavior alongside conventional party development.

This re-classification of the EU as a new democracy and its parlia­ment as an emerging elected body with young parties provides a bench­mark from transitology for worthy comparative analysis. Comparative assessments of institutional developments within the EP and progress evaluations of the new trans-national parties no longer bemoan the fact that developments are below par for Western Europe. Rather, as with new democracies in transition states, revised normative expectations allow for credible development along the themes discussed here. The EU - as a political system - appears to have developed at much the same rate and in much the same way as other new democracies. The persistent cry of the "democratic deficit" may have been premature, for an emerging democracy still very immature.