A titular European Group on Ethics? An empirical analysis of the EGE's moral philosophy and its policy implications
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The EU’s democratic deficit has been a concern for EU critics for a long time. The European Group on Ethics, an advisory organ of the European Commission, has concerned some because of its institutional background. This concern about the context of the EGE raises concern about the content of its publications, termed Opinions. Using a qualitative text analysis, this thesis looks at the Group’s moral philosophy: its use of ethical theories, scopes of moral concern and philosophical arguments. It also looks at the European Commission to uncover the influence of the EGE on its executive. Some EGE members were happy to share their perspectives in interviews. The results show that the EGE is a pragmatic and legalistic organisation whose composition aims to represent the diversity of Europe. This means it uses a plurality of ethical theories (lately focused more on rights), its scope of moral concern is focused on humans and the arguments it uses are mostly legal. This legalism and pragmatism comes at the cost of philosophical validity. The Commission displays a similar moral philosophy, with subtle differences: it is more focused on interests, it is more nationalistic and its legalism is not a problem for the executive branch of the EU. The results show that there is a trade-off between pragmatism and legalism on the one hand, and philosophical validity on the other. At the moment, the EGE verges strongly towards the former side; perhaps too strongly, as its many legalistic argumentations cannot withstand critical philosophical scrutiny. Perhaps the EGE is only a titular European Group on Ethics, i.e., in name only.