Bring Back the Citizens! : How to Revive Democratic Participation for a Citizens-Led Europe

Written by | Monday, August 1st, 2016

Franz J. Allmayer and Team (FutureLab Europe)

The story of the European project began when former friends decided to build a political and economic community based on the same values. Today, thanks to the existence of the Union, Europeans can work, study, travel and live in different parts of this continent. Democracy in Europe is, however, now facing significant challenges at a local, national as well as European level. Political mistrust is growing in every country and across all generations. To change this development, ‘European policy’ needs to be revived, which would increase democratic legitimacy. The EU should play a key role in this sense for the pillars of the ‘European policy’ currently stand on it.

In the first phase, it would be necessary to change the functioning of the political culture. The decision-making process in the EU is currently lengthy while it is trying to satisfy as many EU players as possible. Such processes are indeed directed at finding consensus, though not at finding effective solutions. The lack of transparency and clarity in the accountability of various players for their decisions is also problematic. An important step designed to overcome the political crisis in Europe would be a greater use of technology as a tool of political participation. In this sense, it would be very appropriate to set up a centralized platform within which the main legislation would be discussed in several languages and people could use it to raise questions to their representatives.

The question, however, remains how to effectively improve the possibility of harnessing the potential of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). According to the resolution of the European Parliament (EP) in October 2015, it is important to raise awareness about the ECI among European citizens as well as simplify the use of the tools associated with the initiative. From the perspective of the EU, the fact that many EU citizens do not believe that the Union has a strong influence on the direction of policy-making in their country plays a negative role as well. This situation must be improved also by a further promotion of various educational programs, so that EU citizens have a greater awareness of this situation and related challenges facing the Union.

Generally speaking, one can currently observe a constantly growing apathy, mistrust and euroscepticism in individual EU Member States. The low turnout in the EP elections in 2014 and the growing popularity of nationalist parties acting against the Union can serve as evidence supporting this argument. Therefore, the EU should not hesitate to look for steps that would respond to the current situation. It is the EU – and not anyone else – who need to sort out its own problems.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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