"I condemn the political parties. Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions."
“Zur Verfassung Europas” (“On Europe’s Constitution”) is the name of his new book, which is basically a long essay in which he describes how the essence of our democracy has changed under the pressure of the crisis and the frenzy of the markets. Habermas says that power has slipped from the hands of the people and shifted to bodies of questionable democratic legitimacy, such as the European Council. Basically, he suggests, the technocrats have long since staged a quiet coup d’état.
He says that states have no rights, “only people have rights,” and then he takes the final step and brings the peoples of Europe and the citizens of Europe into position — they are the actual historical actors in his eyes, not the states, not the governments. It is the citizens who, in the current manner that politics are done, have been reduced to spectators.
His vision is as follows: “The citizens of each individual country, who until now have had to accept how responsibilities have been reassigned across sovereign borders, could as European citizens bring their democratic influence to bear on the governments that are currently acting within a constitutional gray area.”
This is Habermas’s main point and what has been missing from the vision of Europe: a formula for what is wrong with the current construction. He doesn’t see the EU as a commonwealth of states or as a federation but, rather, as something new. It is a legal construct that the peoples of Europe have agreed upon in concert with the citizens of Europe — we with ourselves, in other words — in a dual form and omitting each respective government. This naturally removes Merkel and Sarkozy’s power base, but that’s what he’s aiming for anyway.
From Habermas, the Last European: A Philosopher’s Mission to Save the EU