Democracy and the European Union

Course content

Over the last two decades European integration has become increasingly politicized. Where public opinion on the European Union (EU) was once marked by its permissive consensus, the attitudes of EU citizens now often appear as a constraining dissensus on integration.


Despite changes within the institutions of the EU designed to enhance its representative legitimacy, and shifts in the way political parties interact with the EU, the organization still encounters criticisms of a ‘democratic deficit’. This course focuses on the relationship between democracy and the EU by tracking the developments of the institutional structures within the union, the interactions between political parties and European politics, and the public opinion and voting behavior of European citizens at the EU level.


The course presents the institutional structure and political processes of the European Union as they relate to the concepts of democratic accountability and legitimacy. Lectures focus on the nature of democracy in the EU by tracking four major themes: 1) the developments of the institutions within the union, 2) the interactions between political parties and European politics, 3) public opinion and voting behavior of European citizens at the EU level, and 4) the role of democracy in the EU’s external policies. 


Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 20 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 15 ECTS

Master student: 15 ECTS

Learning outcome


The course provides a deeper understanding of European integration and the democratic quality of European governance in the European Union’s (EU) internal and external relations.


After completion of the course, the student shall be able to:

  • Give an account of the institutions, processes, and practices of the European Union
  • Provide an account of criticisms of a ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU, with a focus on interactions between political parties and European politics, and the public opinion and voting behavior of European citizens.
  • Define and describe basic concepts and analytical models regarding integration, political legitimacy, democratic representation, and political mobilization.



Students will learn about the institutions and practices of the EU and gain an overview of, and ability to critically reflect upon (orally and in written form), current research on the relationship between European integration and democracy within the social sciences.

  • Independently bring together and analyze empirical information with the help of basic concepts regarding integration, political legitimacy, democratic representation, and political mobilization.
  • Critically reflect upon various historical, cultural, social, and economic differences between and within EU member states that can have influence on European integration and democracy.
  • Present and argue for their own analytical findings orally and in writing



  • The student should be able to orally and in writing scrutinize and critically assess their own and others arguments and writing on democracy and the European Union.

The course will consist of a mix of lectures and classes.

Bickerton, Christopher J., Dermot Hodson, and Uwe Puetter. (2015) "The new intergovernmentalism: European integration in the post‐maastricht era." JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 53(4): 703-722.


Blauberger, Michael and R. Daniel Keleman. (2017) “Can courts rescue national democracy? Judicial safeguards against democratic backsliding in the EU” Journal of European Public Policy 24(3): 321-336.


Cheneval, Francis, and Frank Schimmelfennig. (2013) “The Case for Demoicracy in the European Union.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(2): 334-350.


Dahl Robert A., (1999) "Can international organizations be democratic? A sceptic's view", (eds) Shapiro, Ian & Hacker-Cordón, Casiano. Democracy's edges Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, pp.19-36.


Dinan, Desmond. (2010) “Institutions and Governance: A New Treaty, a Newly Elected Parliament, and a New Commission.” Journal of Common Market Studies 48(1): 95-118.


Freyburg, Tina, Sandra Lavenex, Frank Schimmelfennig, Tatiana Skripka, and Anne Wetzel. (2009) "EU promotion of democratic governance in the neighbourhood." Journal of European Public Policy 16(6): 916-934.


Føllesdal, Andreas and Simon Hix. (2006) ”Why There is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik” Journal of Common Market Studies (44)3: 533-62.


Green‐Pedersen, Christoffer. (2011) “A giant fast asleep? party incentives and the politicisation of european integration.” Political Studies 60(1): 115-130.


Hix, Simon and Bjørn Høyland. (2013) ‘Empowerment of the European Parliament’, Annual Review of Political Science 16: 171-189.


Habermas, Jürgen. (1994) "Three Normative models of democracy" Constellations 1(1): 1-10.


Hagemann, Sara, Sara Hobolt, and Christopher Wratil. (2016) “Government Responsiveness in the European Union: Evidence From Council Voting” Comparative Political Studies 50(6): 850 – 876.


Hobolt, Sara. (2012) “Citizens satisfaction with democracy in the European Union” Journal of Common Market Studies 50(1): 88-105.


Hobolt, Sara. (2015) "The 2014 European Parliament Elections: Divided in Unity?" JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 53(1): 6-21.


Hobolt, Sara. (2016) “The Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent”, Journal of European Public Policy 23(9): 1259-1277.


Hobolt, Sara and de Vries, Catherine. (2016) “Public Support for European Integration” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 19, 413-432.


Hooghe, Liesbet. (2012) “Images of Europe: How Commission Officials Conceive their Institution’s Role” Journal of Common Market Studies 50(1): 87-111.


Hooghe, Liesbet and Gary Marks. (2009) “A Postfunctionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus” British Journal of Political Science, 39(1): 1-23.


Hooghe, Liesbet, and Gary Marks. "Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage." Journal of European Public Policy 25.1 (2018): 109-135.


Jonasson, Ann-Kristin. (2013) The EU’s Democracy Promotion and the Mediterranean Neighbours: Orientation, ownership and dialogue in Jordan and Turkey. Routledge. Pp. 181-205.


Jonasson, Ann-Kristin & Mezagopian, Madeleine. 2017. “The EU and Jordan: Aligning Discourse and Practice on Democracy Promotion?” European Foreign Affairs Review 22(4): 551–570.


Karakas, Cemal. (2013) ”EU–Turkey: Integration without Full Membership or Membership without Full Integration? A Conceptual Framework for Accession Alternatives.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(6): 1057-1073.


Kelemen, R. Daniel. (2017) "Europe’s Other Democratic Deficit: National Authoritarianism in Europe’s Democratic Union." Government and Opposition 52(2): 211-238.


Klüver, Heike, and Jae-Jae Spoon. (2015) "Bringing salience back in: Explaining voting defection in the European Parliament." Party Politics 21(4): 553-564.


Mair, Peter, and Jacques Thomassen. (2010) “Political representation and government in the European Union.” Journal of European Public Policy 17(1): 20-35.


Majone, Giandomenico. (2014) “From Regulatory State to a Democratic Default” Journal of Common Market Studies 52(6): 1216-1223.


Marks, Gary. (2012) “Europe and Its Empires: From Rome to the European Union” Journal of Common


Market Studies 50(1): 1-20.


Marks, Gary, Liesbet Hooghe, Moira Nelson and Erica Edwards. (2006) “Party Competition and European Integration in East and West: Different Structure, Same Causality.” Comparative Political Studies 39: 155–75.


Marsh, Michael and Slava Mikhaylov. (2010) “European Parliament Elections and EU Governance” Living Reviews in European Governance 5, 4.


McDonnell, Duncan, and Annika Werner. (2017) "Respectable radicals: why some radical right parties in the European Parliament forsake policy congruence." Journal of European Public Policy: 1-17.


McElroy, Gail and Kenneth Benoit. (2012) “Policy Positioning in the European Parliament.” European Union Politics 13(1): 150-167.


Meijers, Maurits J., Christina J. Schneider, and Asya Zhelyazkova. (2019) "Dimensions of input responsiveness in the EU: actors, publics, venues." Journal of European Public Policy: 1-13.


Meijers, Maurits J., and Harmen van der Veer. (2019) "MEP Responses to Democratic Backsliding in Hungary and Poland. An Analysis of Agenda‐Setting and Voting Behaviour." JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies.


Mitchell, Kristine. (2015) “Rethinking the ‘Erasmus Effect’ on European Identity” Journal of Common Market Studies 53(2): 330-348.


Moravcsik, Andrew. (2002) “Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union” Journal of Common Market Studies 40(4): 603-24.


Moravcsik, Andrew. (2018) “Preferences, Power and Institutions in 21st‐century Europe." JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 56.7 (2018): 1648-1674.


Moravcsik, Andrew and Milada Vachudova. (2003) "National Interests, State Power and EU Enlargement." East European Politics and Societies 17(1): 42-57.


Naurin, Daniel. (2015) “Generosity in intergovernmental negotiations: The impact of state power, pooling and socialisation in the Council of the European Union.’’ European Journal of Political Research doi: 10.1111/1475- 6765.12104.


Panke, D. (2012), Lobbying Institutional Key Players: How States Seek to Influence the European Commission, the Council Presidency and the European Parliament. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 50: 129–150.


Pollack, Mark. (2013) ”The New EU Legal History: What’s New, What’s Missing?” American University International Law Review.


Rosén, Guri. (2016) “A match made in heaven? Explaining patterns of cooperation between the Commission and the European Parliament.” Journal of European Integration 38(4): 409-424.


Sánchez-Cuenca, Ignacio. "From a Deficit of Democracy to a Technocratic Order: The Postcrisis Debate on Europe." Annual Review of Political Science 20 (2017): 351-369.


Saurugger, S. (2008), Interest Groups and Democracy in the European Union. West European Politics, 31(6): 1274-1291.


Schimmelfennig, Frank. (2001) “The community trap: Liberal norms, rhetorical action, and the Eastern enlargement of the European Union.” International Organization 55(1): 47-80.


Schimmelfennig, Frank. (2015) “What’s the News in ‘New Intergovernmentalism’? A Critique of Bickerton, Hodson and Puetter’’ Journal of Common Market Studies 53(4): 723-730.


Schmitt, Hermann, Sara Hobolt and Sebastian Popa. (2015) “Does Personalization increase turnout? Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament elections.” European Union Politics 16(3): 347-368.


Schneider, Christina. (2020) “Public Commitments as Signals of Responsiveness in the European Union.” The Journal of Politics (forthcoming). Available here:


Stoeckel, Florian. (2016) “Do Erasmus students develop a European identity? How social interactions change the way citizens think about Europe” LSE EUROPP Blog, available here:


Teti, Andrea, Darcy Thompson, and Christopher Noble. (2013) “EU Democracy Assistance Discourse in its New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood.” Democracy and Security 9(1-2): 61-79.


Vachudova, Milada. (2008) “Tempered by the EU? Political Parties and Party Systems Before and After Accession,” Journal of European Public Policy 15(6): 861-879.


van Elsas, Erika and Wouter van der Brug. (2015) “The changing relationship between left–right ideology and euroscepticism, 1973–2010.” European Union Politics 16(2): 194-215.

Some familiarity with core political science concepts will be expected, but no detailed knowledge of the European Union is required.

Type of assessment
Portfolio exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56