Policy Paper 41

European political parties: the missing link

This pamphlet is part of a broader effort to think of ways to strengthen voters’ interest in European elections. It highlights several reforms the European political parties need to undertake if they are to play their part in building democratic institutions in Europe.

The next European elections will take place in 2014. Why then focus today on the participation of European citizens on this vote? The answer is simple: if we want to reverse the decline in participation over the last thirty years which paradoxically has taken place at the same time the European Parliament has been steadily gaining power within European institutions, we must act now.

But, above all, the question of the relationship between citizens and European institutions is an issue that deserves better than to be taken up, at best, every five years. The organisation of the European debate at the level of both the Union and of Member states as well as the clarification and the politicisation of European issues are essential to giving life to European democracy on a daily basis.

Changes in the European Parliament itself and in its method of election may contribute to the improvement of democratic practice in the EU. Notre Europe has published in conjunction with this text by Julian Priestley, a pamphlet by Andrew Duff which contains several proposals going in that direction.

But much can and should be done to improve the functioning of European political parties, which remain, despite their limitations, the key engines of democratic debate and citizen choice. This publication by Julian Priestley opportunely discusses key reforms that the parties should undertake in order to prepare to assume full responsibility.

These two publications by Notre Europe do not, of course, cover all of the subject. Most of their recommendations will likely improve after discussion or development. But they fuel a debate that must take place at the risk of remaining sluggish in the coming years … until the next election or referendum again – albeit too late – sounds an alarm about the soundness of the European project.