Legitimate to whom? : comparing national perspectives on the legitimacy of the European Union
The thesis compares national perspectives on the legitimacy of the European Union. It develops a definition of legitimacy as a dual concept. Formal legitimacy describes the constitutional nature of a political system, whereas felt legitimacy is defined as the aggregate citizen beliefs about the legitimacy of their political system. Legitimacy is important for the EU because it is a necessary condition for its efficacy and long-term stability. The EU's need for legitimacy also increases in proportion to the degree of integration. The legitimacy of the EU is unusual in that it varies among the member state from whose perspective it is evaluated. That is because the EU's legitimacy is contingent on the constitutional structure and national identity of its member states. An empirical analysis of the legitimacy of the EU from the perspective of Britain and Germany reveals that the EU suffers from a legitimacy deficit relative to the British and German political systems. The nature and severity of the deficit depend on country-specific factors, but the single most significant cause from both countries' perspective is the lack of a European identity. Europeans do not regard themselves as one political community, and they feel limited attachment or trust towards each other. This diagnosis implies that the legitimacy deficit can only be remedied either by creating a European identity or by reducing the need for its creation. The legitimising potential of these two strategies differs between Britain and Germany, reflecting country-specific variations in their perspective on the legitimacy deficit of the EU. While the legitimacy deficit can in principle be resolved, the varying effectiveness of these two strategies, and the reluctance of political decision-makers in the EU to pursue either strategy, make an effective resolution of the legitimacy deficit unlikely to occur in the forseable future.