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Is transparency the key to citizens’ trust?

11-04-2019

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help ...

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help strengthen citizens’ trust in policy-makers and enhance the accountability of public administrations. In this regard, regulation of lobbying (the exchange between policy makers and stakeholders), and bolstering the integrity of this process, is often considered a vital ingredient. Public expectations for increased transparency of the exchange between policy-makers and interest representatives varies from one political system to the next, but it has increasingly become a topic of debate for parliaments across Europe, and a regular demand during election campaigns.

Referendums on EU issues

18-05-2016

Referendums give citizens a direct say over matters which would otherwise be decided by elected (or non-elected) representatives. Thus, as instruments of direct democracy, they may foster citizens' involvement and legitimise important decisions. In fact, referendums have been on the rise in Europe and elsewhere in the world in recent decades, and have become a recurrent feature of European politics. Since 1972, Europe has seen 54 referendums on EU matters, concerning membership, treaty ratification ...

Referendums give citizens a direct say over matters which would otherwise be decided by elected (or non-elected) representatives. Thus, as instruments of direct democracy, they may foster citizens' involvement and legitimise important decisions. In fact, referendums have been on the rise in Europe and elsewhere in the world in recent decades, and have become a recurrent feature of European politics. Since 1972, Europe has seen 54 referendums on EU matters, concerning membership, treaty ratification or specific policy issues (e.g. adoption of the euro); further referendums are to follow in 2016. At the same time, the degree to which EU countries make use of referendums differs significantly: while the majority of Member States have held one referendum on European integration, mostly relating to membership, a handful resort to referendums more frequently. Despite the increased interest in some states, referendums remain controversial. On the one hand, advocates of direct democracy stress that referendums can, inter alia, foster citizens' engagement and thereby improve legitimacy and governance. Critics, on the other hand, highlight the pitfalls of referendums. Especially in the aftermath of the French and Dutch rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, they suggest, inter alia, that in referendums voters tend to answer questions other than those on the ballot paper. Some critics, more generally, question the suitability of a 'yes' or 'no' vote to decide on complex, multidimensional matters within the European setting. Looking at a sample of past EU referendums, the following pages provide an overview of these conflicting views, as expressed in (academic) commentary.

Stakeholder consultation in the EU: Commission Guidelines

16-12-2015

A common reproach that has long been levelled at the set-up of European governance has concerned its 'democratic deficit'. In particular, this has encompassed the idea that the European integration process has traditionally strengthened the executive power at the expense of national parliaments, and pointed to the relatively modest powers initially granted to the European Parliament. Strengthening the democratic quality of EU decision-making became a central concern in the 2001 White Paper on European ...

A common reproach that has long been levelled at the set-up of European governance has concerned its 'democratic deficit'. In particular, this has encompassed the idea that the European integration process has traditionally strengthened the executive power at the expense of national parliaments, and pointed to the relatively modest powers initially granted to the European Parliament. Strengthening the democratic quality of EU decision-making became a central concern in the 2001 White Paper on European Governance which identified openness, participation and accountability among the principles of good governance. Against this background, the Commission has gradually developed and formalised numerous mechanisms aimed at broadening participation in order to increase legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness of its policies. While the Commission's consultation framework does not remain without its critics, it has undergone significant improvements. The current Article 11 TEU, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, aims to give a new boost to 'participatory democracy' in the EU, alongside 'representative democracy', and mandates the Commission to carry out broad consultations with parties concerned. The Commission’s Better Regulation Package, adopted in May 2015, incorporates new consultation guidelines which, inter alia, expand the scope of stakeholder input throughout the policy cycle, further open up the impact assessment process to stakeholders' comments and signal renewed commitment to providing adequate feedback to stakeholders. It should also be mentioned that EU institutions, including the Commission, have developed a variety of mechanisms aimed at improving dialogue with wider society, formal stakeholder consultation being one of them. The following pages do not aim at providing a taxonomy of all of these mechanisms, but give a brief overview of the Commission Consultation Guidelines, which are yet to be implemented in practice.

ASEAN and the EU: Time to Develop the Parliamentary Dimension of the Relationship

30-06-2015

The EU is committed by Treaty to consolidate and support democracy worldwide. Parliamentary democracy is fundamental to achieve legitimacy and accountability. Moreover exchanges between parliaments enhance their role within each country and contribute to the spread of democratic values. The EU is also a staunch supporter of regional integration as a means of fostering regional stability, supporting economic growth and addressing global challenges. However, despite Asia being the world’s most dynamic ...

The EU is committed by Treaty to consolidate and support democracy worldwide. Parliamentary democracy is fundamental to achieve legitimacy and accountability. Moreover exchanges between parliaments enhance their role within each country and contribute to the spread of democratic values. The EU is also a staunch supporter of regional integration as a means of fostering regional stability, supporting economic growth and addressing global challenges. However, despite Asia being the world’s most dynamic region and a growing interdependence between Asia and Europe, the parliamentary dimension of the Asia-Europe relationship remains weak: Asia remains the only continent where the EP has yet to establish a region-to-region joint parliamentary assembly. The scale, complexity and diversity of Asia – which accounts for more than half of the world’s population – may explain this situation. This study first reviews the steps taken by the European Parliament to develop and strengthen relations and takes stock of the rare initiatives that were launched at the different regional levels. It then suggests that parliamentary diplomacy has not taken root yet in most Asian countries and explores the reasons for that situation, among which the respective roles of the executive and legislative branches of government. The current shortcomings in democratic governance in Asia and the lack of political support and commitment on the European side are also identified. In conclusion it argues that despite obvious difficulties there is room to advance representative democracy in Asia. As first step deeper engagement with ASEAN should be pursued and an EP-AIPA structured partnership that would support parliament’s democratic objectives established.

Shaping and Controlling Foreign Policy - Parliamentary Diplomacy and Oversight, and the Role of the European Parliament

04-06-2015

In the post-Cold War international system, new actors, including parliaments, emerge and they challenge the traditional dominance by governments of international relations and foreign policy. In democratic societies it is increasingly difficult to sustain the traditional notion that foreign policy is incompatible with democratic decision-making and scrutiny and that state sovereignty in this domain is the exclusive, unquestionable competence of governments, as the perceived sole representative of ...

In the post-Cold War international system, new actors, including parliaments, emerge and they challenge the traditional dominance by governments of international relations and foreign policy. In democratic societies it is increasingly difficult to sustain the traditional notion that foreign policy is incompatible with democratic decision-making and scrutiny and that state sovereignty in this domain is the exclusive, unquestionable competence of governments, as the perceived sole representative of the state. As the core institution of democracy and elected representatives, parliaments are increasingly expected to contribute to resolving complex foreign policy and international issues which are impacting more and more directly on citizens’ lives by discussing diverse views on strategic direction and policy priorities, by legitimising complex policies and initiatives and by building up public trust (and support) on complex issues in a way that is comprehensible to citizens. The paper examines the role and functions of parliaments in shaping and controlling foreign policy, also by discussing some case studies (US, German, British and French). It reflects particularly on the gradual parliamentarisation of Member State-dominated EU foreign policy. It analyses the nature of the European Parliament’s actorhood in international relations, the EP’s emerging role in EU foreign policy as well as the tools and powers available to exert influence on the Union’s decisions and relations. It finally concludes that EU foreign policy can become efficient and democratic at the same time in the process of building an EU 'representative democracy'.

Political Parties and Political Foundations at European Level. Challenges and Opportunities

16-06-2014

This Report is a follow-up study on “How to create a transnational party system” (2010); it illustrates recent challenges and opportunities at EU level concerning the emergence of: i) transnational parties and a transnational party system; ii) constraints and opportunities for representative democracy. The main areas addressed in the report are: (a) voting coherence of the EP Party Groups after the Euro-crisis; (b) regulation of political parties at European level (PPELs); (c) role of political foundations ...

This Report is a follow-up study on “How to create a transnational party system” (2010); it illustrates recent challenges and opportunities at EU level concerning the emergence of: i) transnational parties and a transnational party system; ii) constraints and opportunities for representative democracy. The main areas addressed in the report are: (a) voting coherence of the EP Party Groups after the Euro-crisis; (b) regulation of political parties at European level (PPELs); (c) role of political foundations at European level (PFELs).

Autor externo

Luciano Bardi, Edoardo Bressanelli, Enrico Calossi, Lorenzo Cicchi, Wojciech Gagatek and Eugenio Pizzimenti

The Future of Democracy in Europe : Trends, Analyses and Reforms

15-12-2008

This paper is a short version of a “Green Paper” that the author wrote for the Council of Europe, with Alexandre Trechsel. It includes a theoretical introduction which lays out the contemporary dilemmas of “Western-Liberal- Representative Democracy” and the trends that are affecting it. While the focus is on the national level, much of the analysis applies even more strongly to the EU level. Among the 29 recommendations for reform in the Green Paper the author inserts a detailed treatment of those ...

This paper is a short version of a “Green Paper” that the author wrote for the Council of Europe, with Alexandre Trechsel. It includes a theoretical introduction which lays out the contemporary dilemmas of “Western-Liberal- Representative Democracy” and the trends that are affecting it. While the focus is on the national level, much of the analysis applies even more strongly to the EU level. Among the 29 recommendations for reform in the Green Paper the author inserts a detailed treatment of those specific reforms that he believes should be of greatest concern to the European Union. He pays special attention to the matter of EU “referendums and initiatives”.

Autor externo

Philippe C. Schmitter (European University Institute, Florence, Italy)

Which Electoral Procedures Seem Appropriate for a Multi-Level Polity ?

15-04-2008

This note was presented by the author for a workshop organised by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs on 25/26 March 2008. It describes some possible changes to the electoral procedures applicable for the European elections. A particular suggestion concerns the introduction of more open lists in order to enable citizens to select the individual candidates of their choice.

This note was presented by the author for a workshop organised by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs on 25/26 March 2008. It describes some possible changes to the electoral procedures applicable for the European elections. A particular suggestion concerns the introduction of more open lists in order to enable citizens to select the individual candidates of their choice.

Autor externo

Ken Ritchie (Electoral Reform Society)

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