Government and Opposition

Symposium on Democracy and New Modes of Governance

Democracy by Delegation? Who Represents Whom and How in European Governance1

Richard Bellamy and Dario Castiglione


The democratic legitimacy of European governance is often said to rest on its ‘output’. However, such arguments also make the implicit ‘input’ claim that the community method and new modes of governance offer a more participatory and deliberative style of democratic politics to standard democratic processes, which is best suited to represent the European interest. We test such claims by analysing them from three different perspectives: functional, societal and delegatory. We conclude that they are grounded on a substantive conception of representation in which the agents of European governance ‘stand’ or ‘act’ for the European public. However, such claims are empty without formal democratic processes of authorization and accountability that ensure European governance effectively promotes the democratic values of political equality and responsiveness.


1 A draft of this paper was delivered to a panel on ‘Political Representation in Times of Governance’ at the ECPR Conference in Potsdam in September 2009. We are grateful to the other participants, especially Chris Lord, for their comments on that occasion, to Sandra Kröger, David Coen, Christine Reh, and this journal's referees for helpful written observations, and to Jonas Tallberg, Sofia Näsström and other members of a Department of Politics seminar at the University of Stockholm for their stimulating discussion of a penultimate version. Research for this paper was undertaken as part of the Democracy Taskforce of the EU-funded 6th Framework Integrated Project on New Modes of Governance (Contract no CIT1-CT-2004-506392).