There is growing attention to problems of European Union (EU) legitimacy and, in particular, the lack of affective links between the political elites engaged in integration and public opinion. Political parties are in an influential position for helping to solve this problem. With the EU's largest ever enlargement in May 2004, it is important to establish whether these problems are likely to be magnified or not. Although there was a strong vote in favour of EU membership in the referenda of 2003 in post-Communist countries, this constituted more formal than substantial legitimacy for the EU. Taking the case of Latvia, it is already clear that some difficulties evident in the older member states are being repeated, notably with respect to mass opinion and European integration, as illustrated by the referendum of 2003 and European elections of 2004. On the one hand, there is a political elite now versed in EU affairs but, on the other, public opinion remains largely ignorant of what membership entails. In addition, Latvia also reveals a serious public mistrust towards the political elite, which is common in post-Communist countries, and this inhibits parties there from developing an intermediary role over European affairs. It therefore remains to be seen whether positive developments in the future linking benefits from EU membership and the achievement of democratic consolidation move Latvia towards a solution of these problems.
|Translated title of the contribution||Legitimating European Union Accession? Political Elites and Public Opinion in Latvia, 2003-2004|
|Pages (from-to)||563 - 586|
|Number of pages||24|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2007|