National Referendums Challenge the Sustainability of the EU

Thursday, July 13, 2017
John McIntyre - Room 201 (University of Glasgow)
Richard Rose , School of Government and Public Policy, University of Strathclyde Glasgow

The European Union has relied for its legitimacy on institutions of representative democracy, in which a Council of nationally elected governments and nationally elected members of the European Parliament take decisions binding on EU citizens. However, at the national level there is a rise in votes for parties protesting against their government’s acceptance of EU policies. There is also a rising demand for national referendums to mandate their national government to reject, in advance or nullify after the fact acceptance of EU policies on such issues as immigration. Since 2014 there have been national referendums in Greece, the Netherlands, the UK, Hungary and Switzerland. Each claims to invoke the accountability of national governments to national electorates as superior to the additiional accountability of their government to multi-national EU institutions authorized by EU treaties. The 2016 UK referendum resolved this conflict by a majority voting to leave the EU. Much more widespread is the threat to EU authority posed by European Council members mandated by national referendums to reject EU policies. The paper will contrast older theories of how EU institutions represent their citizens with the new challenge to the sustainability of the EU due to the spread of the demand for and use of national referendums. It will draw on discussion in a Workshop with academics and policymakers that I am organising in January, 2017 at the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute.

  • rose-4jul.pdf (80.5 kB)