Together

Let’s face the EU’s democratic deficit together

Many European citizen complain about the so-called “democratic deficit” within the EU, but what does this actually mean and how can we handle this problem? The European Parliament (EP) is the only supranational institution whose politicians are directly elected every five years. The Parliament is composed of 751 members, who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world. In the last decades, especial after the Lisbon treaty, the EP gained more power. This means, that the EP in now part of the legislative process (ordinary legislative procedure) together with the Commission and the Council. Furthermore, EU citizen have the right to join the political debate when using the European Citizen’s initiative, which aimed at increasing direct democracy. However, many citizens still don’t feel a number of European institutions actions. They are scared that their worries are not heard in the bubble of Brussels. So, what can be done to target that institutional crisis? First, transparency is needed to increase the EU’s efficiency and credibility. It must be easier to understand the EU’s working process. This also means that a lobby register is finally needed to make EU’s decision making more transparent. Second, Brussels should decentralize some of the decision making since member states are closer to the everyday life of people. The EU should always respect results of democratic elections, even these means that the decision-making processes can take longer. A good example is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free-trade agreement between Canada, the European Union and its Member States. All 28 European Union member states approved the final text of CETA for signature, with Belgium being the final country to give its approval. Even in that case Belgium finally supported that agreement, democratic decisions must always be accepted by the EU. Third, the European Parliament needs to receive the power for legislative initiative, what currently alone the Commission has. Since only the Parliament is directly elected by the EU’s citizen, it is not acceptable that it has not this significant right. Finally, it can be seen that the latest treaties decreased the EU’s democratic deficit with shifting more power to the Parliament or the implementation of the European Citizen’s initiative. However, it needs to be pointed out that it is still a long way to completely end the democratic deficit. Events like “Europe Together” are a good way to involve more citizens in this political debate and it makes the EU more attractive for the youth. I would be very delighted to support this S&D vision in October 2017 and hope that it will be a great event for all participants.
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As a Graduate of Democracy, I am happy that events like this exists for young European people to express their ideas and values. More events like this!

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Other posts in Building the Progressive Future Together

António Costa is the first progressive leader to speak in the context of this new series of exchanges launched in the House setting out a clear vision for a progressive Europe. In light of the various challenges today, there can only be European answers to the problems we face. In his speech, António Costa called for a European response to the refugee crisis, the fight against terrorism, to tackle climate change, to fight unemployment and ensure a fair digitalisation. In order to face these challenges and to re-establish economic and social convergence, the progressive leader was clear: Europe needs a stronger EU budget and a eurozone reform with a proper fiscal capacity. In this sense, fair taxation and new own resources are necessary tools. Costa led by example when announcing that Portugal is ready to raise its contributions to the long-term EU budget. Replying to António Costa’s speech, S&D acting Group president, Maria João Rodrigues, said: “Portugal’s socialist-led government has proven that there is an alternative to blind austerity. It is possible to go back to growth while fighting social inequalities. Another Europe is possible! With his speech, António Costa has proven that he has an ambitious and progressive vision for what should be the new phase of the European project. “We must launch a powerful strategy to invest in the future making the best of the energy transition and the current digital revolution. “The Europe of tomorrow must be a social one. The proposals from the Commission on the implementation of the Social Pillar are crucial in this respect. The various initiatives are a good start but we must do more to ensure that the measures do not remain empty words but become concrete reality for people. Investment in jobs, fighting youth unemployment, ensuring the rights of the children, pursuing minimum wages across Europe – it is our duty to deliver on these needs. “The EU can only take effective action if it has the means to do so. The EU must be equipped with a strong, long-term EU budget based not only on contributions from member states but also increased own resources. Today’s vote on the MFF and the Own Resources report will play a central role as well as our continued joint fight against tax evasion and tax fraud. “Finally, the EU must remain an example of international co-operation based on human values, democracy, fairness and sustainable development.” Maria João Rodrigues emphasised the need to engage with citizens in the upcoming EP elections 2019: “The upcoming EP elections in 2019 are the moment when people can decide which Europe they want. It is our duty to ensure that citizens have a real say in these elections. Thus, to engage with them in an open and inclusive way is fundamental. “We warmly welcome the ‘Citizens Conventions’ to be launched by the EP and the other EU Institutions. It will be important to ensure that all political groups will take part in these dialogues, so that the people can see the differences between the proposals offered by the political groups. “The S&D Group, together with its partners from the progressive family, is already engaging with citizens in the context of its #EuropeTogether initiative launched in October 2016 in Brussels. We will continue our citizen events all across Europe and are looking forward to listening and debating with citizens about the future Europe they want. Join us and have your say on your future!”

The #EuropeTogether initiative aims at bringing European politics closer to citizens. The campaign brings together politicians, academics, civil society and citizens to debate and come up with new proposals for the future of Europe. On 12 April 2018, the next Together event will take place in Hamburg, focusing on the topic of ‘Managing Migration & Supporting Refugees in a Globalised World’. The full programme is available on our event page.

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