Making Sense of the EU: Competing Goals, Conflicting Perspectives

Issue Date October 2003
Volume 14
Issue 4
Page Numbers 42-56
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Although in many ways the European Union has been remarkably successful, it is a profoundly ambiguous creation Competing interpretations view it as an essentially intergovernmental organization that remains a creature of its member state; as the germ of an emerging federal state; as some kind of middle ground between these two; or as a novel kind of political entity that is variously characterized as a “postmodern,” “neomedieval,” “post-state,” or “nonstate” polity. It has been able to advance despite this ambiguity, but with EU enlargement and the drafting of a Constitutional Treaty by a European Convention chaired by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, it will face new challenges. A key question is whether the EU—or any international organization—can succeed in democratizing itself without becoming a state.

About the Author

Marc F. Plattner is a member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Board of Directors. He was on the NED staff from 1984 until 2020, serving first as the director of the grants program. In 1989, he became founding coeditor (with Larry Diamond) of the Journal of Democracy. He later served as codirector of the International Forum for Democratic Studies and as NED’s vice-president for research and studies.

View all work by Marc F. Plattner