12 steps to tackle the European democratic deficit
In the run up to the European election, the Electoral Reform Society today publishes a report detailing how to tackle the growing disconnect between British people and European politics. Close the Gap gives 12 practical recommendations ranging from strengthening the UK Parliament’s role in European affairs to giving citizens a more direct say in forming European legislation (see box below for details).
Commenting on the report publication, Katie Ghose (Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society) said:
“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.
“This 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. There is more talk than ever about Britain’s relationship with the EU, yet when it comes to citizens’ chance to have their say, most are choosing to walk away.
“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.”
The report comes as a new ComRes poll commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society finds that three in five British adults (59%) believe that the European Parliament does not represent the views of voters. And more than a third (35%) say it is not worth voting at all in the European Parliament election.
For more information and interviews, contact Will Brett on 07979 696 265 / firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Read the full report here: /sites/default/files/Close the Gap FOR ONLINE2.pdf
2. Full poll results: /sites/default/files/FULL POLL RESULTS.pdf
3. The 12 recommendations for tackling the democratic deficit are:
Strengthening national parliaments
Adopt ‘green cards’, whereby national parliaments can instigate European legislation, and ‘red cards’ (when parliaments come together to veto legislation)
· The UK Parliament should be able to scrutinise the Government’s negotiating position before Council meetings, as well as after
· The UK Parliament should ‘mainstream’ European policies by sending European legislation to the appropriate committee depending on the policy area
· Westminster should organise a Speaker’s Conference on strengthening Parliament’s role in EU democracy, and take proposals forward to a pan-European conference of parliaments
· Give devolved parliaments and assemblies the ability to hold UK ministers to account on pressing issues at EU negotiations, and devolved ministers the right to participate in Council meetings
· Parliament and the UK Government should put in place mechanisms for giving citizens a direct say in the shaping of EU legislation
Improving the European Parliament
· The periodic decampment of the European Parliament to Strasbourg should end
The introduction of a candidate-centred, proportional system should be adopted for UK elections to the European Parliament. We strongly advocate the Single Transferable Vote, but an open-list system would be an improvement on the current closed-list system
Making the European Commission more accountable
·The European Council should under no circumstances over-rule the ‘candidate model’ of electing a Commission president for the 2014 election, but should negotiate with European political parties on a clearer set of rules for future elections
· In the long term the Commission should shrink in size. In the short term the next Commission should aim to divide Commissioners into ‘seniors’ and ‘juniors’
Making political parties more representative
· Political parties should seek to improve gender representation in the European Parliament by increasing the number of female candidates they put forward for election in winnable positions
Parties should attempt to recruit candidates with a wider range of views on Europe. EU policy affects agriculture, trade and almost every other area of British public life, and this should be emphasised when recruiting candidates