eciDo 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!

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – European Parliament

34 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar

    Whether or not they are a waste of time, probably they are but the jury is still out on them. However it must be abundantly clear that they have nothing to do with democracy.

    I still don’t see any proposals as to how the socalled federalists think their pipe-dream can be realized without drastically (20-25%) reducing incomes and welfare in countries like Germany, Austria, Finland and Netherlands. Or are they the ones who also still believe that wealth can be aggregated at the highest level?

    It would greatly help if these federalists would finally bother to explain exactly how they think the wealth level of North/Western countries can be somewhat reduced to enable a system of fiscal transfers? Because this room does not exist on top of current national budgets, so obviously it would have to be at the expense of them.

    And opt-in referendums on a country by country basis would also not be a bad idea, provided all sides get equal time to make arguments and not the usual one-sided media pro-EU campaigns we get to see on the continent.

    I never said I cannot be sold on more ‘integration’ however not as the whole system is now and not without opt-in system instead of the opt-out system we have now. Opt-in would mean you get the decision made at the level where the demos is (or rather, the demos’s are, since we are talking about countries).

    I would reject out of hand the Monnet method or anything that Verhofstadt proposes.

    • avatar

      Marcel, you seem to assume that investment from North to South will be a perpetual drain on the finances of the North. It’s not a zero-sum game, though. When East and West Germany reunited, the poorer East received a lot of support from the richer West. And yet, today, Germany is the most powerful economy in Europe.

      Likewise, the stronger states in the US support the weaker ones through the federal budget. Yet the USA is the second biggest economy in the world (after the EU).

      Southern and Eastern EU countries already provide Northern and Western countries with opportunities for investment, cheap labour (including highly skilled labour, thanks to the old Soviet eduction systems) and new markets for Northern and Western products. The Dutch supermarket chain Spar, for example, has thousands of stores in Italy, and hundreds in Spain, Ireland and Hungary. Now, it’s making inroads into the Slovenian and Polish markets.

    • avatar

      West Germany would actually be a relatively stronger economy than it is even now if the ‘Eastern’ part did not continue to drag it down.

      The US was a federal system from the start, where the differences between states are marginal compared to the differences between EU countries west and east. As fiscal transfers in the US approximate 8-12% of the budget, here they would have to be a multitude of that, 16-24% isn’t outlandish and yes western Europe would have to reduce its national budgets to make that happen.

      This of course would increase poverty in the west.

      And I would think that the myth of ‘opportunities for investment’ would have been proven false by now. All we see is a race to the bottom in workers rights, workers compensation, environmental protection and consumer protection.

  2. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    STOP corruption and work for the people of Europe as a whole, only then you will win the confidence of us again.

  3. avatar

    By not pretending policies are decided by ‘Europe’, ‘European Parliament’ or ‘European Commission’. They are decided by socialists, conservatives, liberals, greens and centre-right. Austerity was not decided by a faceless institution, but by liberals, socialist and centre-right together. In you agree with austerity, vote them. If you disagree, vote GUE or Greens. And dear Media, please don’t allow those parties responsible to hide behind general institutions as EU, EP or EC.

  4. avatar
    Alberto Esparcia

    I don’t trust too much in EU nowadays. Nevertheless I stand for the historical project but if the “real” EU is unsatisfactory. If UE can be reformed to a very diferent reality, removing the burocratical structures we`ll have future, if not is better to return to a light project

  5. avatar
    Nicola Antonopoulos

    The EU we wont to create is the EU of its citisens and not of the Member States politicians. Are Member States politicians which have descredited the EU. They take decisions on behalf of the EU on a restricted cyrcle of intergovermental assemblies where there is no case to consider EU citisens which cares about the EU and its future.

  6. avatar

    We need to debunk the Myth and Truth about EU first. Encourage the Citizens to engage with Europe in order to make them understand what Europe matter and what it have to offer them. Remember what Robert Schaumaan said in 1950;- “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”

    • avatar

      Schumann and Monnet were staunch opponents of popular democracy.

  7. avatar
    Ana Fonseca

    It’s not a waste of time.

  8. avatar
    Eva Christina Andersson

    No it´s not a waste of time. It is so important to raise the voice, to be active and to participate. We all should.

  9. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


  10. avatar

    I NOTICED TWO QUESTIONS… European citizens initiatives ?????????
    do you trust the EU ….. NO

  11. avatar

    Contrary to what it’s often argued by it Credits, the EU is not Unimportant, or a Super Hero either. It Powers unlike those enjoyed by the State Members are not hindering Powers; it means that the EU can only act so as it has received a Mandate to do so by the State Members.
    And the other Competences that has not to conferred by the State Members remains actually of the State Members.
    So when the EU ask within the Framework of his transferred Competences, those received from the State Members, the EU is only doing what it is suppose to do.
    And The Principle of Conferral-this Principle represents an important break to the European Action, and it prevent possible Abuses in Over Reaching by the EU. Nobody cannot really complaint about it. It’s called the Principle of Conferral.

  12. avatar

    The European Union engages into many different aspect of activities;
    It Promotes Peace, It promotes Citizen Safety as well as the Environment in which we live, it ensures a plain level field of the Market, It exercises soft Power on it Neighbouring Countries, It enhances it Economy Governance and exclusively deal with it external Market Agreement.
    And the it is largely tense to it own Policies elaborated over the years. The European Union today is the Wealthiest Market Place in the World, the Bigger Trading Power, the Largest Market for Mergers and Acquisitions, The Biggest Source of Foreign Investment and this is Direct, and the Most Direct source of Largest Donor of Development Assistance.
    So we should really thank the EU and Consider what it can offer us today.

  13. avatar
    Munteanu Vlad Stefan

    “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).”-than its a waste of time and maybe one of the reasons why the eurosceptisism is rising, pretending to listen doesn’t help

  14. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    ?.U has transformed illegaly into a market vultures union.Citizens have not any rights.Only by voting European Left and Alexis Tsipras there is hope for citizens.We want 35hours workweek of 5 days, minimum living income for every citizen and healthcare free of charge for everyone.Fundamental rights for humans .And you care only for animals.

  15. avatar

    It is a waste of time if we make these communist proposals. Why no privatisation? EU will soon become an extreme socialist structure. I’m sick and tired of getting robed by the EU so that they can support the jobless.

  16. avatar
    Unul dintre Noi Romania

    Thousands of hours of volunteering have been necessary to collect over 140 000 signatures for ONE OF US in Romania. The National Autority for the Personal Data Protection worked more than one month in order to check EACH and EVERY signature and there was enough a changed letter or a number to unvalidate a signature. President Barroso is answering to all these citizens: this legislature is ending thereby no legislative proposal? My question: is there any AUTHENTIC democracy, besides tha declarative one in the EU? right2water was followed by NO legislative initiative.

  17. avatar
    Petio Peshov

    We need more rights, direct democracy by rferendums, internet and machine voting for the strategic decisions.The technocracy monopolized the decision power. If it is a real democratic system they have just to help carying the people’s choice.Ok, i agree, the politicians and the technocrates are skilled and prepared but the politics is the people orientation. Today, It is a big debate. If the politicians don’t act for the society or worse agains society (over consumption, GMO, internet surveilliance, unemployment, foreign policy etc) what is the point? OK, we are on a crossroad but the decision making today is getting far from the citizens. And that ‘s a pity because a lot of young profesionals are working in the EU and they believe too that the EU is not just an institution but also a cause. So maybe the decision makers have to bring back the real meaning of the democracy.

  18. avatar
    Pedro Redondeiro

    No, participatory democracy is never a waste of time, but instead a very democratic way to include the people in everyday decisons! ;)

  19. avatar
    Τεπενδρής Πίπης

    please read some ancient greek political books..

    THERE IS NO participatory democracy of 90million people over a continent!!!!

    it is just an illusion that oligarghy can hide behind

  20. avatar
    Τεπενδρής Πίπης

    please read some ancient greek political books..

    THERE IS NO participatory democracy of 90million people over a continent!!!!

    it is just an illusion that oligarghy can hide behind

  21. avatar
    Antonio Jose Pecurto Pecurto

    a cidadania europeia deve estar no centro das decises politicas europeias a Europa construida pelos cidados europeus e no pelos politicos e partidos

  22. avatar
    James Craig Wightman

    Judging by how individuals and NGO’s are leading the charge on active transport, cycling and walking, its about time the EU developed an EU wide policy on cycling!

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