Closing the EU’s democracy Gap

Katie Ghose, former Chief Executive

Posted on the 28th April 2014

There is an ever-widening divide between the European institutions and the British people. We are members of the European Union, yet most of us don’t feel part of it or able to shape its policies.

We have run a survey showing that three in five people (59%) believe that the European Parliament does not represent the views of voters. And more than a third (35%) say it’s not worth voting at all in European Parliament elections.

These alarming findings show that there is a serious ‘democratic deficit’, which makes people feel powerless and distant from Europe. Today we are publishing a report which sets out 12 things we can do – here and now – to address this problem.

We do not take a view on the rights and wrongs of our membership of the EU. Rather, we take as our starting point the fact that we are currently members, and that there are serious problems with European democracy.

The so-called ‘democratic deficit’ makes next month’s European elections much less significant for people than they ought to be. And when you consider how much European politics affects people’s day-to-day lives, that’s a serious failure of democracy.

Watch our animation about the democratic deficit

As long as we’re members of the EU, we should be doing everything we can to make sure people have real influence over European affairs. The EU has to be more representative and more accountable, and it should be designed to encourage participation rather than putting people off.

There are practical, achievable things we can do to close the gap between the EU and the British people. The Commission should be made more accountable, the European Parliament should be more representative, and there should be ways for people to participate directly in European lawmaking. Above all, we need to strengthen the role of the UK Parliament in both forming and scrutinising European legislation.

On 22nd May only around a third will turn out to vote in the European elections, and not many of them will feel particularly enthused about doing so. But we can change that. It’s time we tackled the European democratic deficit and closed the gap between the EU and the British people.

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