Home > Vol 5, No 8 (2016): 9-40 > Cramm

The Interrelation Between Democracy and Responsibility: The Greek Crisis as a Paradigm Case for the EU

Wolf-Jürgen Cramm


One of the main lessons to be learned from the Greek crisis is that large scale supranational communitarisation is a danger for democracy if mutual obligations between members undermine substantially the possibilities of political choice for the single member states. I argue that a well-balanced relation between (self-) responsibility, solidarity, performance incentives and democracy involves taking subsidiarity serious, as well as to admit a certain amount of institutional flexibility. This flexibility is demanded especially in the case of large scale communities which include countries as members, like the EU, and in which the basic ideas of social, economical and financial policy are rather heterogeneous. Democracy, responsibility and solidarity must be in a well balanced relation for any community to function and to be generally acceptable to the citizens. This includes the defence of rather ambitious forms of civil participation and sovereignty of the people against the paternalistic pretensions of experts or of political and cultural elites. And responsibility ―as a basic condition for democracy― requires that the design of the contractual basis of the EU must make possible that voting communities really assume responsibility for their decisions, which includes bearing possible negative consequences of these decision on themselves. Preserving a certain leeway for differing decisions about economical, financial or social questions is necessary for giving democratic substance to the demand of the primacy of politics. This puts serious limits to ambitions for treaty-based supranational communitisations.


Europe, crisis, Greece, democracy, responsibility, solidarity, justice, community, subsidiarity, reform, paternalism

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