My point is the following. On the one hand, no democrat can be happy with the present shape of the Union political system. The democratic deficit, notwithstanding Scharpf,19 is a serious concern. There are serious legitimacy problems to be faced. On the other hand, and as things stand, the implicit premise of Fischer (moving towards a European federation will increase legitimacy) seems to me plausible. The reader will be immediately shocked by the contradictory character of these two statements. How is it possible to increase legitimacy by strengthening an institutional structure that displays many democratic flaws? The key to this puzzle is that we need to distinguish between the different kinds of democratic deficit that are at stake here. The paradox dissolves once we give second thoughts to the conception and dimensions of democracy.
In the next section, I claim that political legitimacy is not to be equated with a concrete method of aggregating preferences, but with a complex conception of democracy.20 This has at least four dimensions: procedure, substance, implementation and scope. The democratic deficit of European institutions is related to the first three dimensions, while the democratic deficit of non-Europe is related to the fourth, namely, to scope. The Union is needed because it makes decisions that are democratic in terms of scope. Going back to the traditional nation-state is no solution to the deficit. At the same time, we can gain a clear picture of what is wrong at European level, and, consequently, we can put forward proposals to reduce the real dimensions of the democratic deficit. And it is this, as a matter of fact, that seems to be what Fischer is saying.
19 Fritz Scharpf argues that the democratic deficit has been more an academic, than a political, concern up to quite recently. See, Governing Europe (Scharpf 1999).
20 For the complex conception of democracy, see, Menéndez (2000:68 et seq).