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How Should the EU Respond to Democratic Backsliding? A Normative Assessment of Expulsion and Suspension of Voting Rights from the Perspective of Multilateral Democray

Democracy
European Union
Political Participation
Political Theory
Representation
Normative Theory
Demoicracy
Antoinette Scherz
Universitetet i Oslo

Abstract

Considering the developments in Hungary and Poland, the risk of democratic backsliding on in the EU is not only a threat but a reality. This may also pose a threat to democracy on the European level. Therefore, we must ask: How should the European Union respond to democratic backsliding in its member states? Recent contributions on this topic often focus on the feasibility and effectiveness of reactions of the EU. This overlooks the more fundamental normative question of whether and how the EU should address these domestic issues. This paper addresses this question on the basis of multilateral democracy (or demoicracy). Multilateral democracy understands the EU as a voluntary association between several democratic peoples. Peoples are defined by a democratic structure including rule of law, while certain variations in their internal organisation have to be respected. However, if a member of the multilateral union falls below the threshold of this democratic structure its people is no longer a democratic agent. Allowing the representatives of such states to participation in the legislation of the Union means subjecting the other peoples and their citizens to undemocratic rule. Yet, since the citizens of backsliding states are also EU citizens, their legal protection and participation rights should be sustained. Therefore, multilateral democracy prefers the suspension of voting rights of state representatives to the expulsion of states. The paper discusses first, the objection to the suspension of voting rights as undemocratic, and second, whether expulsion needs to be the ultimate sanction available in multilateral democracy.