Competition policy and law

Law is one of the key instruments used to realize the objectives of Europeanization and the ECJ have continuously emphasized the importance of interpreting and applying Community law in a uniform way and ultimately this will have the effect of bringing the UK towards an ever closer union. The ECJ has been working closely with UK courts to help clarify EU law and requests for preliminary rulings by the national courts (these are rulings by the ECJ to assist the national court to arrive at a judgment) have increased significantly .

Indirect implementation is the most common form of implementing European law and policy; it is a lengthy two-step process. Implementing European legislation often requires repealing domestic laws (if they clash with EU legislation) before they are approved by national parliaments. This is because EU law takes precedence over national law (the doctrine of supremacy), even in the UK where home courts may not challenge their own parliaments' laws. This clearly illustrates how the English judicial system and our legislative process are increasingly subject to influences from the EU .

Direct implementation involves the Commission having substantial authority for 'common policies' covering areas such as humanitarian aid programs, common fisheries policy and assistance to Central and Eastern Europe. One of the key areas where direct implementation occurs is competition policy where the Commission can have direct impact on decisions that firms my take with regard to restrictive practices or mergers. British trade policy is another area that is more or less wholly Europeanized as the principles of the single market demands regulation at the supranational level.

The doctrine of direct effect means that certain Regulations and Decisions do not have to be approved by national legislatures before it is applied so there is minimal input from Parliament. This is seen to threaten Parliamentary sovereignty but is an inevitable and accepted consequence of European institutionalization and one which has significant legal as well as political ramifications . However, it appears that for the past few years the EU is more sympathetic to Member State's different historical experiences, geopolitical interests and socio-economic structures.

This is illustrated in 'Europe a la carte' (a method of differentiated integration), which allows member states to pick and choose their European policies in the face of increasing heterogeneity of the EU. The UK has supported this notion in certain policy areas which reflects our reluctance to transfer sovereignty to the EU level. This is most evident on the EMU issue where Britain and Denmark were allowed to opt-out highlighting the limited extent of enforced Europeanization . The doctrine of subsidiarity marked the EU's first attempt to focus on the growth of sub-national politics in national jurisdictions.

The doctrine of subsidiarity (the principle that power should be exercised at as low a level of political organization as possible i. e. the national or sub-national) has been a useful argument for the Scottish, Welsh and the Northern Irish to support their aspirations to have devolved governments. The European Commission encouraged the development of regions in the EU and in 1992 a Committee of the Regions was set up in Brussels. The effect was further transference of powers from member states to European institutions. This has had a dramatic effect on the British political constitution .

The principle of subsidiarity states that functional authority and expenditure responsibility should be assigned to the lowest level of government that is capable of implementing a service. The Amsterdam Treaty also covers the ability of citizens to influence or participate in Union policy. For example, a Protocol on subsidiarity, while mostly about the respective responsibilities of states and common institutions stresses the need for consultation and a new Article adds openness to the need for decisions to be taken as closely as possible to the citizen .

In bringing together the three main decision-making institutions and looking at how their separate characteristics support the concept of a democratic deficit, a broader picture is formed. Institutionally, the EU comprises a relatively unrepresentative European Parliament, which despite being the most directly elected body, lacks the authority to portray the wishes of the people it represents. Furthermore, the individuals and institutions from which the Parliaments power is derived, the Council and the Commission, are themselves not representative of the European publics’ desires .

It is therefore fair to say that using the initial definition of terms, there is currently a democratic deficit in the EU. However, the word deficit implies a lack, and therefore something undesirable; in contrast to the popular perception of a democratic deficit, if there is a belief that there is no lack in the amount of impact the citizens of the EU have over decisions made at an EU level, and an increase would be undesirable as it would actually decrease the functionality of the policy-making institutions, can a deficit then really exist?