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Post-national democracy and the reform of the European Parliament

Why is the European Parliament unpopular? How can the Members of the European Parliament use their new powers to strengthen the democratic character of the European Union? Can a reform of the electoral system galvanise public engagement with the first ever post-national parliament? Andrew Duff addressed these questions and proposes an ambitious package of measures which, he argues, will strengthen the popular legitimacy and effectiveness of the Parliament. Top of Duff’s list is the creation, in time for the next elections, of a pan-European constituency electing 25 new MEPs from transnational lists.

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.

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. Notre Europe has published in conjunction with this pamphlet by Andrew Duff, a text by Julian Priestley which discusses key reforms that the parties should undertake in order to prepare to assume full responsibility.

But, changes in the European Parliament itself and in its method of election could also contribute to the improvement of democratic practice in the EU. Andrew Duff’s proposals contained in this publication are therefore timely.

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.