IT IS NOT EASY TO CHARACTERIZE THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) AS A political system. The main comprehensive approaches have at least partly failed, and we have to admit that the EU is neither completely neo-functional, nor intergovernmental, nor pre-federal. We may call it sui generis, but this does not carry us very far.
On the other hand, we continue to apply in our analyses of the EU notions which originated in classical national democratic systems. This is true not only for the structures – above all the institutions – but for the processes as well. To add to our dilemma, recent studies on policy-making show us that the EU is far less homogeneous than one might imagine and that there are substantial differences from one policy area to another. But even if the EU is mainly a negotiating system, an authority which is clearly responsible for its outcomes should nevertheless exist. In a classical parliamentary system the government and the parliamentary majority fulfil this function. The minority may mainly oppose the majority and press for alternative solutions, or it may use its influence for reaching a compromise; it is generally agreed that a structured opposition is a constituent part of a democratic political system.