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Democracy and Legitimacy in Multi-level Governance: Legal and Political Perspectives from the EU

Maastricht Summer School
Netherlands, Maastricht
Maastricht Summer School Netherlands, Bonnefantenstraat 2, 6211 KL Maastricht, The Netherlands
Tuition fee €699 one-time
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Course Description
The concept of ‘democracy’ carries a lot of weight. From its Athenian origins to the present day, democracy has been shaped, reshaped, and adapted countless times. It is, in this sense, a concept that is still quite alive, regardless of its very long history. Though usually the way we understand democracy is roughly based on a system of government by elected representatives within a specific nation-state, in the European context democracy has taken an additional shape that has superseded the bounds of the nation-state. Reflecting the multi-level governance structure of the European Union, how one can understand and study democracy in this context is rather different than what we would traditionally envision. Of course, while this has allowed European countries to cooperate in an unparalleled way, it has also brought about several ‘hick-ups’ along the way.

The European Union, as a political and legal order, is often faced with a number of questions regarding its democratic legitimacy credentials. The complexity and occasional opacity of the EU decision-making processes, the distance of decision makers from the European ‘demos’ or ‘demoi’, or the intricate balance between European and national priorities are some of the reasons commonly brought up when talking about Europe’s famous democratic deficit. What does that really entail? And how can we really understand democracy in the context of the EU? As societal issues become more and more complex, these questions become even tougher to answer. For instance, through the challenges posed by the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptive technologies, or the rule of law crisis, the Union’s democratic polity is increasingly confronted with tough demands for efficiency, democracy, and evidence-based policymaking. How can we make sure that such difficult policy decisions still reflect the Union’s founding democratic ideals?

This week-long course will give a brief introduction of the much-discussed issue of European democracy and democratic legitimacy. The overall aim of the course is to introduce students to current theoretical debates on the democratic legitimacy of EU governance from both a legal and political perspective and engage in hands-on discussions about real-life challenges to European democracy.

The course is structured on the basis of lectures and PBL assignments about democracy and legitimacy in the EU, an integrated skills workshop where students will explore a specific theme relevant to the overall topic of the course, and two days where students will put their newly acquired knowledge to practice by holding presentations and engaging in structured debates.

Through this course, students will gain knowledge on the following topics from the broader field of European Studies:

• Democratic theory in the context of the EU and multi-level governance;
• Theoretical perspectives applied to understand and study the EU legal and political system;
• Democratic legitimacy as a concept in the EU;
• Current debates on legitimate power and rule in the EU.

In addition to addressing these issues, students will also get hands-on experience through training academic skills:

• Presentation skills;
• Debate skills;
• Group work;
• Critical reading.

Recommended Literature
Held, D. (2016). Models of democracy. Polity Press.

Beetham, D. (2002). The legitimation of power (5th print). Macmillan.

Bovens, M. (2007). Analysing and Assessing Accountability: A Conceptual Framework. European Law Journal, 13(4), 447–468. doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0386.2007.00378.x

Scharpf, F. (1999). Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic? Oxford University Press. doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198295457.001.0001

Schmidt, V. A. (2013). Democracy and Legitimacy in the European Union Revisited: Input, Output and ‘Throughput’. Political Studies, 61(1). doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00962.x

Teaching Methods
Lectures ▪ PBL ▪ Presentations ▪ Assignments ▪ Work in subgroups

Assessment Methods
Debate ▪ Participation ▪ Presentation ▪ Take home exam

Course Coordinator
Danai Petropoulou Ionescu

Apply now! Maastricht Summer School 2023
Application deadline
10 Jun 2023, 23:59:59
Central European Time
Studies commence
10 Jul 2023
Apply now! Maastricht Summer School 2023
Application deadline
10 Jun 2023, 23:59:59
Central European Time
Studies commence
10 Jul 2023