Do you trust the EU? Probably not, if the statistics are to be believed. Eurobarometer estimates that, from 2007 to 2013, trust in the EU plunged from 57% to 31%. In addition, less than one in three people surveyed agreed with the statement “my voice counts in the EU”. And, as last week’s infographic shows, euroscepticism is on the rise right across the EU. But why is trust in the EU falling? And, more importantly, how can the trend be reversed?
The most obvious way of making your voice heard in the EU is by voting in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May. If you already know which party you want to support, you can also vote for them in our Debating Europe Vote 2014.
Another way of making your voice heard is via a European Citizens’ Initiative (and we’ve put together an infographic explaining how they work). The ECI is a tool allowing European citizens to propose new EU legislation and thereby actively participate in the policy-making process (though, unlike the Swiss system of referendums, the European Commission is not obliged to adopt the proposal).
To be successful, an ECI requires one million signatures from citizens from at least seven different EU Member States. So far, only one initiative – the “Right2Water” initiative – has met these requirements. This initiative seeks to ban the privatisation of water supplies and to exclude water and sanitation utilities from EU internal market rules on state ownership and support. The initiative was discussed in a public hearing in the European Parliament last week, and the decision now lies with the Commission. If the Commission decides to adopt the initiative, could this help rebuild trust in the EU?
Although most political parties in the Parliament support the ability of citizens to launch an ECI, the fact that only one initiative has been successful does raise some questions. Both the Social Democrats and Greens strongly support the ECI tool, but call on the Commission to make it more user-friendly and to do more to promote it to European citizens.
On the other hand, the Eurosceptics believe there is no ‘European demos’ or common political identity in the EU, and they call the ECI a ‘PR-scam’. The Conservatives are likewise skeptical, suggesting that the Commission might choose to react only to pro-European proposals. How do you see the future of the ECI? Let us know which party you agree with by voting in our Vote2014!
How do YOU think the EU’s democratic deficit should be closed? Is the European Citizens’ Initiative the right step towards more participatory democracy? And do you believe that there is a ‘European demos’ that an ECI can represent? Or are the European Parliament elections already the best way to restore trust in the European Union? Share your ideas, questions and thoughts in the comments section below, and we will take them to policy makers for their reaction!