What could be done to make the EU more democratic?
“Europe should set up a system that mirrors the Swiss. Referendums called on any matter that EU citizens feel ardently about… This is true democracy.”
Supporting the Swiss model we need greater use of direct democracy in the EU, replying that “we have to work out new and innovative measures to reinforce the feeling among European citizens that they can control and they can participate in European decision-making. But would that work for the EU?
Some people, however, are much more cautious about the idea of referendums in Europe, arguing that Switzerland might be the only country that could really make them work. Instead, they think there needs to be better accountability of the Commission and that the European Citizens’ Initiative should be simplified and strengthened. There is also an agreement that new and innovative democratic tools should be developed, highlighting the example of “liquid democracy” as something that could be interesting to explore.
“The democratic deficit exists because you need to get a university degree in European studies in order to understand how the EU works.”
There is a call for “simplification of the institutional framework… Until then, it will be very hard for people to relate to, or feel comfortable around something they don’t understand.“
There is a partly agreement, but pointing out that national governments are also incredibly complicated and little-understood by most citizens. The solution, people currently think, that there need to be greater democratic control over EU institutions, including the strengthening of the power of the European Parliament relative to the Commission.
Even here are some disagreements between EU citizens. “If you get into the nitty-gritty of any political system“, some say, “you really need a degree in order to understand it.” Instead, They think it is more important to encourage a greater “politicisation” of EU politics, with a clearer distinction between different parties and political ideologies at the European level. This would, I believe, help citizens to identify more closely with the broadly “left-wing” and “right-wing” political movements in European politics that they understood at the national level.
The EU’s institutional framework is without a doubt too complicated and getting even more so. The point is to make Europe not necessarily more democratic but more inclusive, and the problem is that most of the institutions, think tanks, seminars and consultations on EU affairs are based in Brussels. Of course, at the moment of the creation of EEC it was the perfect place for the institutions, but now it’s so far from most citizens and gives them the feeling that they’re excluded.
I think that is an interesting point, made up! Would a decentralised approach be better for democracy, or would it prove a logistical nightmare? Some people complain already that the European Parliament is split between Brussels and Strasbourg. We’ll try and get a reaction to your suggestion.
Could the problem be that the EU already runs under a ‘liquid democracy’ or ‘delegated voting’ system? It certainly does not feel like even representative democracy. From the outside, even though there is a huge swag of MEPs and EU bureaucrats, major decisions (especially, extra-European alliances, international aggression and the like) appear to being made by national governments or rather the parties in power in those national governments. Many with as little 20%-30% support of their respective nations, where they then become ‘proxies’ for the other 70%. I believe that the problems with the EU is not just in the one area, had it restricted itself to Europe and internal European matters only and insisted that if individual member nations wanted to play away, they should do so on their own and not use the EU as a shield, then the EU would be in a better position. That ‘playing away’, in my opinion has exposed the EU to forces that the EU was supposed to protect against in the first place. What is missing are a few de Gaulle,s. It must be obvious to anyone, who really believes in democracy, that the EU should do all in its power, to determine what populations actually want to remain members of the EU, asking the ‘proxy’ reps of national governments is not good enough. To do otherwise is conscription. This issue will remain a severe handicap until it is resolved. It can be resolved in a managed way or it will be resolved in a destructive way eventually. with such turmoil in place and the blame game is in full swing, now would be a good time to determine who is and who is not serious about the European Union.
Being all that said there is not only one truth of how the EU can become more democratic but there are a lot of people that are willing (unfortunately not always able) to make a change for the better. I think one major point is transparency as most people in the countries (Germanny, Denmark, UK, Switzerland) I have lived have no clue what the EU is really doing nor what they stand for.
So it needs to be communicated in a plain and simple way and the politicians need to get back to the base – the people – again and not only seeing them as voters covering their next legislation.
What are your thoughts?