• Idriss Bendrif

The European Union and its legitimacy crisis

L'enlèvement d'Europe - Sébastien Leclerc the younger. The painting describes the Greek classic tale where Europe was unwittingly taken away by Zeus, and then kidnapped.


The EU has been facing unprecedented challenges which defy its neoliberal structural model. Between the various attempts to handle globalized economic interests, somewhat of a federalist type of governance and ensuring complete respect of national sovereignty and democracy, the balance is undeniably difficult to maintain. What is now called a legitimacy crisis, coupled with the rise of internal political national movements, is threatening EU cohesion and unity due the nature of its practices, decisional customs and image. The populations of Europe are widening a trust gap between themselves and the highest EU supranational institutions, challenging the latter’s views, democratic legitimacy and thus authority. However, certain alternatives are suggested which could rethink the shape of tomorrow’s European Union. This research piece will firstly explain to what extent the EU faces a crisis of legitimacy and will then argue that it can be resolved, depending on what priorities and thus sacrifices the EU is willing to make.

Legitimacy crisis

Democratic deficit

There are many aspects to the legitimacy crisis the European Union has suffered for the at least the past decade. First, it would be helpful to define what is exactly meant by ‘legitimacy crisis’ label. One side of this crisis lies within the democratic deficit of the EU and recent major events such as Brexit or the rise of far-right parties. Democracy is ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people’ according to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Similarly, the Western vision on democracy is traditiona