Giovanni Sartori underlined rightly that democracy needs to be complicated but must be still easy enough to be explained.
Europe’s landscape of societies is very diverse. The idea that “there are not Member States, but Member Countries,” is an often-undervalued reality in most of the EU and its candidate countries. There are mixed private-public systems including many more actors than just state authorities, with extensive differences. The classic example of a “statist country” is France, with a strong technocratic leadership which gains public support by a simple majority of the electorate. The fifth Republic was created in reaction to a terror-driven civil war and a colonial war; it aimed to provide minimal space for consensus-seeking, self-organized entities, and parliamentarism. Other countries are associated with a traditional European corporatism. The classical example is Austria, where employers’ and employees’ associations are still an integral part of the state’s governance and are criticized as being dusty. The old Scandinavian model, but also the Dutch “polder system” including a strong welfare state, is a pluralistic-corporative model where a “big” parliamentarian democracy is backed by smaller democratic checks and balances throughout society. The Danish call it lille demokrati, meaning “small democracy.” “Big democracy” with elections and parliamentarian decision-making is also based on citizens’ democracy, which is day-in-day-out compromising at school, at the work-place, or in associations. With its strong pluralistic corporatism, Germany is also an example of democratic complication; checks and balances are getting even more complex through federalism.