Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of multiple national campaigns. European voter turnout has seen a substantial decrease since the first European elections in 1979. European democracy deserves much better.
Many crises have shaken our Union over the last few years, including mounting Euroscepticism, growing populism, the austerity crisis, migration challenges, terrorist threats, as well as the insecurities resulting from Brexit. However there seems to be a growing realisation that working together is indispensable, in order to tackle Europe’s common challenges. But there is still a long way to go to persuade citizens that Europe is working for them. We need to do better!
Every citizen has the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. In the run-up to the European election of 2019, we need to improve the democratic legitimacy of the EU. Firstly we need to ensure that the principle of the Spitzenkandidaten, that the election of the President of the European Commission is nominated as a lead candidate by one of the European political parties, will be repeated. This process strengthens the EU’s democratic dimension and contributes to transparency in the decision making process, since people get to a choice of candidates prior to the European elections. We also support the idea of having pan-European lists of candidates in European elections. We need to examine ways to introduce these lists, which could use at least some of the seats left vacant when the UK leaves the EU.
We need to reinforce the democratic and transnational dimension of the European elections and the democratic legitimacy of the EU decision-making process. Indeed, the 2019 European Parliament elections will be transformative for European democracy.
The S&D Group demands a democratic agenda to strengthen the democratic participation of our citizens:
We support the principle of the Spitzenkandidaten process as it fosters the political awareness of European citizens and reinforces the political legitimacy of both Parliament and the Commission, by connecting their respective elections more directly to the choice of the voters.
In this respect, we also support the proposal of electing a number of Members of the new European Parliament through pan-European lists of candidates, put forth by the various European political parties, led by the candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission.
The Spitzenkandidaten-process should rely to the largest extent possible on participative procedures within the national parties such as primaries. This should be done in cooperation with national parties. European events surrounding these primaries can have a strong impact on the legitimacy and credibility of the European project. Therefore, national, as well as regional and local media involvement, especially television networks, is a must!
Progressive national and European leaders should seize the opportunity of the European elections to present a European agenda which clearly differentiates them from the other political forces. This will help regain trust and present citizens with clear choices for the future of the European project. Consequently, European elections should occupy an important place on the agenda of progressive leaders, being an opportunity to reconnect citizens to the European project.
We must do better in connecting with people so that, in return, people would want to participate. They must truly feel that the EU is there for them. They must truly feel political ownership of the European project. It is not enough for voting to be easy; people have to want to take part. For people to want to participate in the political process, they must be convinced that their participation actually does matter —it must have a tangible impact on policy decisions, and improve people’s lives across Europe. To achieve this, we must make extensive use of the opportunities offered by social media. We need to find ways to shape our progressive narrative so that it makes Europe personally relevant to all of us. We need to engage with citizens on how to deliver better and more empowering reforms that will increase trust in our Union.
The Bruges Together Declaration “Democratic participation in the 2019 European Parliament elections” was adopted in Bruges on February 22, 2018, at the Together event.
Thanks to all of you for your inspiring ideas and constructive contributions!
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