"The European Union is not yet a traditional democratic society in the way that we use the term today, but a democracy under construction. It is still incomplete, but this is the very nature of democracy itself", stated the President of the European University Institute in Florence, Professor Yves Mény, at an event organized by the Kokkalis Foundation in his honor.
The event was part of the Kokkalis Foundation's annual Athens Forum series, which has been organized with great success in past years and has hosted world-renowned academics, such as professors Joseph Nye, Samuel Huntington and Gregory Nagy. Professor Mény's speech sealed the European University Institute's and the Kokkalis Foundation's collaboration on a series of joint academic activities, such as the summer seminars in Olympia, which this year welcomed 125 students from 21 countries and facilitated cooperation with the Universities of Patras, Macedonia, Yale and Duke.
The event was attended by the Greek minister of education Mrs. Marietta Giannakou, the former Minister of Education and Member of the Parliament Mr. Petros Efthimiou, as well as many other deputies, rectors, academics, diplomats, businessmen, journalists and distinguished personalities. In her short speech, Mrs. Giannakou explored the challenges of European integration. The rector of the University of Patras, Mr. Christos Chatzitheodorou introduced Professor Yves Mény, his work and his personal accomplishments.
In his speech, Professor Mény focused on the importance of the European Constitution as the guardian of democratic principles for a new, enlarged Europe. "The European Union is an ambitious undertaking for the integration of democracy above and beyond the borders of the nation-state, an attempt that is still incomplete". "The demands of democracy aren't something new to the history of European integration", stressed Professor Mény while referring to the public debate regarding the democratic deficit of the Union that started in Europe in the mid 1970's and is still an ongoing matter of concern for the entire European family.
Professor Mény, who defined himself as a pro-European that is critical of the EU’s progress towards a federative form, characterized the current diarchy between the European Council and the Commission as embryonic. Building on the two democratic pillars of popular participation and the rule of law, Mény identified the following priorities towards a better European democracy: a charter of fundamental rights, with a clear and binding hierarchical set of norms on the allocation of competencies between the Union and member states, one single legal personality, and new means for voicing the will of the citizens. He emphasized the importance of European citizens' acceptance of the European Constitution and the advocacy role that can only be played by national political elites towards this direction. Domestic party politics, Mény suggested, must frame the European debate on a pro- versus not pro-European cleavage instead of a false left-right cleavage.