New Policy Papers on Enhancing the Democratic Legitimacy of the European Union

In advance of the upcoming debate on EU reform during the Confe­rence on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), three policy papers by Manuel Müller and Julian Plottka of Institut für Europäische Politik identify major defici­encies of the EU’s democratic legitimacy and provide recom­men­da­tions for enhancing it. They conclude that European elections have to become more meaningful, that civil society and citizens’ invol­vement should be organized in a bottom-up way and that European economic policy needs more direct accoun­ta­bility. The policy papers have been commis­sioned and financed by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU Office in Brussels.


Make European Elections More Meaningful

The EU is charac­te­rised by an unusually high degree of insti­tu­tional entan­glement and little majori­tarian decision-making. This strong consen­sualism not only reduces decision-making efficiency but also the compe­ti­ti­veness among pro-European parties and hence the democratic meaning­fulness of EP elections. At the same time, the absence of a loyal opposition within the system reinforces populist anti-EU parties. To overcome this situation, it is necessary to make EP elections more conse­quential and to increase the scope of majori­tarian decision-making in the EU. The first paper outlines short and long-term reform paths regarding European electoral reform, the parlia­men­ta­ri­sation of the European Commission, and the reform of the legis­lative procedure.

Download the first policy paper here.


Make Civil Society Invol­vement More Bottom-up

Compared to most member states, EU-level parti­ci­pative democracy is quite advanced. However, to remain in the pole position, the EU needs to further develop its instru­ments for involving individual citizens as well as organized civil society. In order to move from the current top-down to a more bottom-up approach, citizens must be given a true right of initiative, policy makers need to become more responsive to citizens’ input, instru­ments must be simplified and parti­ci­pation should be increased. The second paper provides ten recom­men­da­tions how to address these reform needs. The planned “Confe­rence on the Future of Europe” is the best oppor­tunity to test these ways of bottom-up citizens’ involvement.

Download the second policy paper here.


Make EU Economic Policy Accountable

Due to latest reforms during the crisis in the euro area, European economic gover­nance has evolved into an overly complex structure lacking suffi­cient democratic legitimacy. In order to give citizens more influence on European economic policy, it is necessary to better clarify respon­si­bi­lities for European economic gover­nance, make it more trans­parent, and simplify the insti­tu­tional struc­tures. The third paper provides seven recom­men­da­tions on how to make European economic policy more accountable.

Download the third policy paper here.


All three papers present preli­minary results of a study on “Enhancing the Democratic Legitimacy of the European Union” conducted by the Institut für Europäische Politik for the Brussels Office of FES. The complete study will be published after this year’s summer break.