Comparative European Politics

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 121–137 | Cite as

In Search of Lost Norms: Is Accountability the Solution to the Legitimacy Problems of the European Union?

  • Sonja Puntscher Riekmann
Original Article


The article investigates the concept of accountability as one attempt to answer the question of legitimacy of European governance. The guiding thesis is that accountability is an important organizing principle of democracy. There is, however, a lack of consensus on the definition of democracy as the fundamental norm beyond the state. The current career of accountability as a topic of European political discourse may be interpreted as an instance for the search of that norm lost in the creation of the supranational polity, which has led to a diffusion of power. The result is a form of ‘diffuse democracy.’ Stressing accountability will not necessarily solve the dilemmas of European democracy. The procedures of accountability provided by the treaties do not suffice to convince the citizens of the democratic quality of the Union. By way of conclusion, the article advocates greater clarity through appropriate constitutionalization of the Union.


accountability legitimacy democracy 



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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonja Puntscher Riekmann
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Salzburg, Fachbereich Politikwissenschaft und Soziologie, Rudolfskai 42SalzburgAustria

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