This paper intends to start off an inter-disciplinary discussion around the following statement, which many lawyers and political scientists may find controversial: European economic law is a missing link in the debate on the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. In order to make the above point, this paper will, first, argue that, from a normative perspective, two notions which currently dominate and are usually intertwined in the institutional and constitutional discourse on the legitimacy of the EU, namely participatory democracy and civil society, point at the still unexplored necessity of considering the democratic legitimacy of the EU from an economic standpoint. Indeed, while the participatory theory of democracy prescribes a reform of the market society in order to satisfy the ideal of equal participation, civil society theory, in its critical version, advocates the defence of civil society against the colonising tendencies of the market imperative. This paper will, then, give some brief examples of the way European economic law may impact on civil society and lead to its colonisation by the market imperative, thus illustrating from an empirical perspective that we cannot discuss the EU's democratic legitimacy without looking at the fundamentals of European economic law.
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