The simplified argument is that the EU is not intended to function as a traditional political system because it is not one in nature. Instead, the European Union is intended to “carry out those tasks which may be undertaken more effectively in common then by the member states acting separately, in particular those whose execution requires action by the Union because of their dimension or effects extend beyond national frontiers” .
This principle of subsidiarity has gained widespread support largely in part due to the vagueness of such statements; there is no clear definition of what these ‘tasks’ may be and how, or through what channels, they should be carried out. In order to prevent total deadlock, over-politicization, and constant debates – something very apparent in the intergovernmental nature of the Common Foreign and Security Policy – in addition to an expanding Union of diverging interests and problems of representing everybody’s expectations, we see how increased public leverage is not necessarily desirable .
Given the popular definition of a democratic deficit to mean ‘a lack in ability of European citizens to affect decisions made at a European level’, then a democratic deficit can only exists if such a situation is considered undesirable for purposes of functionality. Institutional debates arise mostly out of the problem surrounding the distance of the European project from the voters; as the ‘capital of Europe’, Brussels is not considered to be a mid-way point between Western and Easter Europe, therefore the citizens furthest away from Brussels undoubtedly feel removed from the political process.
The Convention on the Future of Europe, the Commission’s White Paper on Governance and the Citizen’s Agenda, while attempting to reduce the gap between the EU and the citizens, proved that the EU had lost focus on citizens. Moreover, the EU institutions and governments attempt to get in touch with the public by presenting a Constitutional Treaty was highly problematic and in the end unsuccessful; trying to re-connect to the citizens could not be done by a text if there were no positive institutional actions to supplement it .
Subsidiarity is a fundamental principle of the European Union law. The EU can only make laws if individual states are unable to do. This principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of human individuals. It assumes that humans are social animals and they have structures which allow individual action and link the individual to society. Globalization, the European Union, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union have raised the importance of subsidiarity in Eastern Europe. Subsidiarity speaks to the need for equitable and proportional power sharing among multi-levels of Governance.
Namely, there is a need for devolving decision-making powers from national and supra-national levels of authority to regional and local level authorities. Regional and local administrations need to assume a role in political and economic development reforms. The EU is a model for regional and local authorities to modernize their public administration and business sector practices to become more successful world traders . Subsidiarity is becoming an increasing challenge for regional and local communities in Europe as they strive to establish their place in this new world order.
Subsidiarity addresses the core issue of regional and local authorities achieving an equitable and proportional sharing of power among the changing levels of world governance. Major changes that impact subsidiarity include the establishment and expansion of the European Union (EU), the conversion of the Soviet Union into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as well as several independent nations in Eastern Europe, and the increasing importance of the global economy .
In general, the principle of subsidiarity looks to assure that citizens have effective participation in the democratic process of developing their own communities. To this end, regional and local communities need sufficient powers for making and enforcing local laws and to levy the local taxation that they need to furnish local services to their respective communities. These local services would include hospitals, courts, police and fire, land use control, libraries, and the creation of local ordinances to manage the community’s affairs .
For example, the conversion of the Soviet Union was, in effect, a first step toward subsidiarity. The Soviet Union’s centralized Command and Control policy and decision-making structure was devolved down directly to the individual Commonwealth of Independent States as well as to the several republics had became independent nations in Eastern Europe. Another key change that highlights the increasing importance of subsidiarity is the global economy. National, regional and local economic developers in Eastern European countries now need to look not only at neighboring markets, but also at markets around the globe .
Economies are not governmental artifacts. Economies are organic activities of individual people trading with each other. Therefore, economies are grounded at the community level where goods and services are provided by people and readied for the market for other people to obtain. When the strategic decision-making process for economic development is centralized and conducted only at the national level the regional and local entities lack the degree of control that they need to develop their communities into becoming valued trade partners with the nation as well as the EU Community .
Clearly, national government’s role is to take the lead for economic development in the national and global context. However, the vitality of regional and local economies, which is ultimately the vitality of the national economy, is primarily in the realm of the regional and local authorities. Therefore, economic development needs to be engaged from the bottom up, in addition to the guiding vision and support from national economic policies. Businesses exist in local communities and regions. Without regional and local economies, there would be no economy for the national and state governments to lead and support .
Subsidiarity has become a growing concern for regional and local authorities among the EU member nations as well. The EU authority structure has added new layers of authority on top of the current national authorities. These structures have placed regional and local authorities additional steps away from top level of policy and decision-making. Therefore, the regional and local authorities in the EU member nations are concerned that they too are being left out of participating meaningfully in important EU economic development planning and decision-making processes .
The EU Convention on institutional reform was preparing, through its Working Group on Subsidiarity, proposals with a view to taking more account of this principle. This Working Group had been engaged in a dialog with the EU Council regarding the role of regional and local authorities in the EU’s futures planning and in the development of their new constitution. In this regard, the associations representing local and regional authorities in the EU were concerned that even in this critical dialog about subsidiarity they might be left unheard .