National autonomy and democratic standardization: Should popular votes on European integration be regulated by the European Union?

AuthorJoseph Lacey
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/eulj.12272
Publication Date01 Nov 2017
ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT
National autonomy and democratic
standardization: Should popular votes on European
integration be regulated by the European Union?
Joseph Lacey*
Abstract
Given the increasing use of direct democratic devices on questions of European integration, this paper explores
whether or not Member States may have good reason to agree on common regulations for popular votes of this
nature. Conceiving of the European Union as a political system designed to serve the interests of states and
citizens, it is argued that where direct votes have the potential to undermine the territorial, functional,
normative or existential integrity of the EU, then states may have good reason to sacrifice a degree of national
autonomy to adopt common regulations for certain uses of direct democracy. This leads to a case for
democratic standardization across Member States when it comes to withdrawal, accession, Treaty ratification
and optin decisions.
1|INTRODUCTION
The European Union is a scheme of cooperation based on the normative commitment to accommodate the diversity
of legal regimes, while nevertheless maintaining a common framework for cooperation between them. On this view,
the central question of European integration is as follows: when do Member States have good or sufficient reason
to constrain their national autonomy in an area by developing uniform principles and regulations at the suprana-
tional level? Put differently, when should Member States seek to overcome their diversity to pursue deeper unity,
becoming less foreign to one another, and ultimately more tolerant of common rules that constrain sovereign
expression?
This paper relates this fundamental question to the issue of democratic standardization in the EU. Democratic
standardization may be defined as the extent to which Member States decide to constrain or regulate their respective
domestic decisionmaking processes in common at the supranational level. Treatment of this issue is relatively rare in
legal and political theory, but is not without precedent. In particular, normative reflection on democratic standardiza-
tion has been provoked by the issue of democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe, on the one hand,
1
and
*
Junior Research Fellow, Politics, University College, Oxford, UK. My thanks to participants of the ACCESS Europe workshop in June
2017 at the University of Amsterdam for their comments on the initial draft of this paper. For thorough feedback on subsequent
drafts, I thank Jan Pieter Beetz, Luigi Corrias, Ben Crum, Mario Mendez and Markus Patberg.
1
B. Bugaric, A Crisis of Constitutional Democracy in PostCommunist Europe, (2015) 13 International Journal of Constitutional Law,
219; JW. Müller, Should the EU Protect Democracy and the Rule of Law Inside Member States?, (2015) 21 European Law Journal,
141.
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12272
Eur Law J. 2017;23:523535. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/eulj 523

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