The European Union (EU) faces a pressing challenge with democratic backsliding potentially resulting in an authoritarian member state. EU institutions have sought to safeguard member state democracy. Most normative studies submit the EU has the political authority to intervene based on either current treaties or the contested theory of militant democracy. I argue that shared popular sovereignty, which entails Europe’s peoples directly underpinning the EU’s political authority, is the most appropriate principle to theorise EU democracy protection. I argue that the EU has a duty to protect its democratic peoples from backsliding governments because these governments undermine the two fundamental conditions of the EU’s political authority: democratic authorization by its peoples and transnational democratic decision-making. I then address the compatibility of various possible measures with shared popular sovereignty. After presenting the criterion of protecting Europe’s peoples, I demonstrate how this criterion can inform a comprehensive normative assessment of possible measures.
Jan Pieter BEETZ is Assistant Professor in Political Theory and European Integration at the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG).