Democratic Deficits in Europe: The Overlooked Exclusiveness of Nation-States and the Positive Role of the European Union

Ref. 12482

General description


Data clustering around 2010 (see note in geographical space)

Geographical Area

Additional Geographical Information​

20 "most established democracies with stable boundaries" in the EU, plus Switzerland: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Switzerland Justification: We have deduced the demand to include immigrants from normative theories of democracy, which, in turn, have been developed with a focus on countries with established democracies and stable boundaries. This demand may have to be modified in situations in which the boundaries of a nation-state are contested and its integrity endangered. Also, it seems justified that democracies that are not yet “established” have other priorities. For such cases, we thus would have to adjust our evaluation criteria. This is why in our first application of the IMIX, we limit our investigation to countries which fulfil the two preconditions – and to EU member states, since our argument only applies to them. (However, we included Switzerland in the dataset as a contrasting case for a non-EU member.) For the first criterion, our case selection draws on the “blueprint sample” of the Democracy Barometer, an index which was developed with a similar evaluative purpose. Taking the Polity IV and Freedom House scores as a basis, Marc Bühlmann and his colleagues compiled a sample of 30 countries that can be considered to be the most established democracies in the world (all those that have consistently perfect scores from 1995-2005 on both indices). Within the group of established democracies in the EU, however, we exclude the Baltic states since they do not sufficiently fulfil our second precondition. Combined with the overlap of all data sources, this selection allows us to cover a cross-section of 20 EU member states (plus Switzerland), with data clustering around 2010. As indicated above, we could draw on databases by EUDO CITIZENSHIP for measuring the de jure components. For the de facto components, we collected data from Eurostat , the European Social Survey 2010 and official country statistics.


Abstract of the article: With the help of the Immigrant Inclusion Index (IMIX), a quantitative tool for measuring the electoral inclusion of immigrants, we demonstrate that European democracies are much more exclusive than they should be. All normative theories of democracy share the conviction that it is imperative that democracies include long-term immigrant residents into the demos – either by granting citizenship or by introducing alien voting rights. But even the 20 most established and stable democracies within the EU are far from fully realizing the ideal of ‘universal suffrage’. This is true independently of whether we count in- and excluded people in numerical terms, or whether we evaluate the relevant laws and regulations. Therefore, we diagnose a substantial democratic deficit on the level of European nation states. The EU, for once, plays a positive role in reducing one of the most fundamental democratic deficits in times of migration.


When it comes to the electoral inclusion of immigrants, most European democracies fall into exclusive categories; only seven countries are fairly inclusive. Against the background of the imperative for inclusion in normative democratic theory, we can thus diagnose substantial democratic deficitis with regard to immigrant inclusion across Europe. This shows that, in the age of migration, the ideal of universal suffrage in democratic nation-states is actually far from being realized. This is true independently of whether we count in- and excluded people in numerical terms (de facto) or whether we evaluate the relevant laws (de jure). We also find that countries that are restrictive in providing access to citizenship do not tend to offer aliens voting rights as an alternative. Finally, we demonstrate that the EU helps to reduce the exclusiveness of the European nation-state by requiring that migrating EU citizens residing in other member states are granted voting rights on the local level.