The European Union and the Social Deficit
93 - 106
Representation: journal of representative democracy
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The aim of this article is to analyse democracy, legitimacy and interest representation within the European Union. Taking the recent rise of populist parties within the European Parliament and declining levels of public support for the European Union as a starting point, the article probes the relationship between levels of support for the European Union and the interests the European integration process represents. In doing so, it applies a political sociology approach to the EU's governance matrix to two periods: the revival of European integration from the mid-1980s up until the outbreak of the Eurozone crisis, and from 2008 onwards. It argues that the European Union has constitutionalised a system of economic governance that prioritises the objectives of liberalisation and deregulation and their actors. This sidelines more socially oriented actors and has resulted in the erosion of employment and social policy across the member states. As a result, European citizens do not believe that the European Union best serves their interests. In short, the European Union suffers from a ‘social deficit’ with respect to both the interests it represents and the policies it produces. In responding to the Eurozone crisis, the EU's policies have amplified the ‘social deficit’, thereby further narrowing interest representation in the European Union.