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.