Game Lecture on European Democracy: guest post from Jaap Hoeksma

The debate about the future of the EU has been dominated for decades by the dilemma whether the process of European integration should lead to the creation of a sovereign state of Europe or result in a Europe of sovereign states. As recently as 2005 the Belgian politician Paul Magnette published a study under the title: What is the European Union?1 In a rare twist of logic the author refrained from answering the question he posed in the title of his book. Seven years onwards Rosas and Armati concluded their widely acclaimed study on EU Constitutional Law by expressing serious doubt as to whether the EU can ever be defined.2

Friedrich Nietzsche should be remembered for giving his successors a sound piece of advice. The German philosopher suggested that, if you encounter a problem which can not be solved, by no means whatsoever, you should turn in into a game.3 Treading in his footsteps I decided to turn the unidentifiable and unsolvable European Union into a board game, called Eurocracy.euro1

On the board, the EU member states are portrayed according to their size with 1 to 4 cities. Players represent political parties competing for power. They embark on a continuous election campaign through the EU. They obtain Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) by winning municipal elections. Other parties landing on the same city may challenge them in fresh elections, which are democratically decided by the throw of the dice. The may also deal and swap cities in order to get entire countries. The first player to command a qualified majority in the European Parliament, wins the game and is proclaimed President of the European Union…..on condition of sufficient support in the European Parliament.

Eurocracy is played with six persons per game. When played in the class room, the winners on each table are invited to engage in a Speech Battle. They have to deliver a speech in which the propose their priorities on taking office. During this part of the event, the other pupils assume the role of the European Parliament and decide which winner will be the ultimate EU-President.

euro2After play, the teacher/trainer/professor invites the participants to engage in a debate about the EU. Is the EU a state or an organisation of states? What are the characteristics of the Union? Are there differences with other regional organisations and, if so, can you name these differences.

By asking and further questioning, the group arrives at the point where the problem must be faced as to whether the EU fits or does not fit in the Westphalian system of International Relations. This moment constitutes the turning point. It depends on the time available how many minutes or hours are spent on the Westphalian system. It forms the basis of the Organisation of the United Nations and underlies the distribution of international justice. Moreover, it sets the rules for the global financial markets. Currencies function on the basis of the Westphalian paradigm.

However, when the distinguishing qualities of the EU are compared with those of states on the one hand and those of organisations of states on the other hand, it becomes instantly clear that the Union is neither a state nor an international organisation. The implication of this conclusion is that the Westphalian paradigm has lost explanatory value with respect to the EU. As it is a general academic rule that obsolete paradigms have to be replaced, the Westphalian paradigm in international relations should also be substituted with a new one. Since the European Union exists of both citizens and member states, the diplomatic perspective of international relations should be replaced with the civic approach of democracy and the rule of law.

From this point of view, the common feature of all EU member states is their respect for democracy and the rule of law. The famous Copenhagen-criteria for the accession of new member states stress that they should fulfil stringent criteria of human rights and democracy. As the essence of democracy is that the citizens are the authors of the laws, which they themselves must respect, it would appear that this principle has also bearing on the governance of the EU. This line of thought leads to the discovery of the Law of Democratic Integration. Whereas the Westphalian system prescribed that the EU should either become a sovereign state of Europe or establish itself as a Europe of sovereign state, the Law of Democratic Integration holds that, if two or more democratic states decide to share the exercise of sovereignty in a number fields with a view to attain common goals, the organisation they create for this purpose should also be democratic.

At this juncture it becomes possible to draft a Citizens’ Definition of the EU. Beyond the Westphalian paradigm the European Union may be defined as a democratic polity of citizens and member states. The distinctive quality of this polity is that the citizens are entitled to participate in the national democracies of their countries and in the common democracy of the Union.

Martin SCHULZ EP President
EP President Martin Schulz happy to show the Citizens’ Definition of the EU!

In conclusion, it may be suggested that the term ‘common democracy’ is of primordial importance for the EU. Whereas the term is void of meaning in the old Westphalian paradigm, it is obvious from the new perspective that the EU is evolving from a common market to a common democracy.

To visit the game and the present author you may go to:

1 Paul Magnette, What is the European Union?, London 2005

2 Allan Rosas and Lorna Armati, EU Constitutional Law, Oxford 2012

3 Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Leipzig 1908