To appreciate the essential failing of the European Union, compare it to a model of democratic virtue: The United States government.
I should perhaps have left rather more of a gap in which to absorb that proposition. Yes, I know the "world's greatest deliberative body" is home to a bunch of egomaniac, posturing bores. And that congressmen would offer up their first born to achieve the approval rating of the widely despised George W Bush. Or that the presidency itself doesn't often seem to attract the sort of talent one would expect from a post with 300 million potential candidates.
In fact, If I still retain any readers, I would like to offer the above as part of my case, that the United States has an infinitely superior system to that of the European Union.
The inherent problems of our EUtopia are many and various, but they can mostly be sourced to the incredibly disdainful and negative view that our elite and the founders of "Europe" as they call the EU, have of they the people. Working perhaps from Plato's blueprint The Republic with its philosopher kings, they long ago decided that the masses if ever given a choice in the matter, would be goose-stepping back down the path to war in no time.
Given European history they may have a point. That being said, their contempt for the people and therefore for democracy is very bad for Europe and its future.
Law making isn't a bad place to start in understanding how the democratic deficit impacts EU member states. The vast majority of European voters are blissfully unaware that the governments they vote in every few years are not much more than window dressing. Several recent studies (one by the German parliament) have indicated that between 70-85% of the laws that member state parliaments pass originate in Brussels.
Those laws are drafted by the European Commission, none of whose members are voted in or feel any vulnerability to public opinion. Needless to say, special interests and furthering the European Project are the prime motivators behind new legislation. Compare those fortunate commissioners to their American counterparts, whose tortured circumlocutions, shiftiness and flip-flopping are at least testament to the power of public opinion.
The ignorance of ordinary Europeans about what is going on is due to the failure of another elite. The European media solidly supports the European Project. The very unanimity of their voice suggests a terrible conspiracy to lull the sleeping monster of the masses, till he is sufficiently bound and acquiescent.
The mundane reality is, though, that the political center in Europe is far to the left of that in the States. Those journalists simply value the aims of the centralising EU over sovereignity, freedom, and democracy. The upshot is that they prefer not to provoke primitive nationalism by avoiding telling the whole truth.
This is most clearly seen during the periodic "No votes" in referendums that European voters periodically annoy the EU mandarins with whenever given the chance. First, their betters affect not to hear the 'no' and demand further votes till the simple bozos get it right. Then the guardians of openness, our "fourth estate" stand four square behind the pols.
It's a variation on the theme "40 million Frenchmen can't be wrong". The regular Joe feels in his water that this latest treaty is wrong, but then again all the smart opinion formers seem to think otherwise, so he gives them the benefit of the doubt, again.
The fatal weakness to anyone attempting to democratise the EU is the nature of the beast itself. No European patriotism exists. In the final analysis, US democracy depends on the love of patriots who will fight for it. Every so often they do and their representatives listen if they want to hang on to the gravy train. In European elections, Germans, French and British vote on local issues. This divided electorate that doesn't vote or organise across national and linquistic boundaries is all too easily ignored.
Every new EU commission and parliament has the same aims. They are never voted out. Pressing European problems are avoided because of the weakness of the worried orphan superstate that nobody loves. This stagnant stability breeds the same corruption and inefficiency that put paid to an earlier Union to the east and will very likely, bring dark days to those countries sheltering under the meaningless 12 golden stars of the European Union.