This article examines the experience of democratic participation during the European Community’s most undemocratic era, 1948-1973. An important segment of European activists, a suffrage movement of sorts, considered European-wide elections as the most effective technique of communicating European unity and establishing the EC’s democratic credentials. Going beyond strictly information dissemination, direct elections would engage citizens in ways pamphlets, protests, and petitions could not. Other political elites, however, preferred popular democracy in the form of national referendums, if at all. This article examines the origins and implications of incorporating the two democratic procedures (national referendums and direct elections) into the EC by the end of the 1970s. It also identifies a perceived deficit in democracy as a spectre that has haunted European activists since the first post-war European institutions of the late 1940s, a spectre that has always been closely related to an information deficit. Based on archival research across Western Europe, this article touches upon the larger historiographical issues of European democratization, political communication, and the role of elections in European unity.
European Community, European Parliament, Democratization, Political Communication, Direct Elections, Referendum, European Movement
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