About John McCormick

John McCormick

John McCormick is Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Politics at the Indianapolis campus of Indiana University in the United States.

About This Site

This is a site designed to encourage discussion about the benefits and advantages of the European Union, and to help students using my textbooks on the EU.


The European knowledge deficit

The EU is often criticized for its democratic deficit – this in spite of the fact that all five key EU institutions are held either directly or indirectly accountable to voters (Parliament is elected, the European Council and the Council of Ministers are run by elected government leaders, and the leaders of the Commission and Court of Justice are appointed by the governments of the member states). Far more informative as a route to understanding the EU is the knowledge deficit. Put simply, most Europeans know and understand little about how the EU works.

Much the same could be said about their knowledge of their own home governments, and the complaints about how little citizens know of public affairs date back at least to the ancient Greeks. It was Winston Churchill, after all, who said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter. But while the problem is bad enough at the national level, it is worse at the EU level, opening the door wide for myths and misconceptions to creep in. And, most ironic of all, the EU is routinely criticized for its elitism, and yet the average European has so little independent knowledge of the EU that they open themselves up to manipulation by political leaders, parties, the media, and interest groups: the very elites against which they rail in the first place.

There can be no sensible or reasonably informed debate about the EU – or certainly no debate that is not dominated by political and special interests – until European citizens learn about the EU, arm themselves against narrow agendas, and have their own independent views on the EU. Problem is, how do we make that happen?

1 comment to The European knowledge deficit

  • Cor

    As long as arguments are only exchanged within national public spheres, problems cannot be perceived as ones that apply to Europe in its entirety, let alone Europe’s possible contribution to the promotion of a new world order. Even an increased media coverage of European events by the national press, although an important first step, would not suffice because the emergence of a European identity does not only depend on the mutual perception of what is going on in the other national public spheres, but also on an active exchange between them that can actually influence the outcomes. Such a goal could only be fully achieved by establishing one comprehensive public sphere with European-wide media, effective associations within civil society and European parties that offer programmatic alternatives

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