The European Union has a democracy problem. The polycrisis that has plagued the EU for years has led to a cacophony of voices calling for fundamental change to the integration project. Yet despite the shock of the Brexit referendum and the electoral upsets caused by nativist parties across the continent, few of the plans for EU reform include concrete proposals to address the perennial democratic deficit.
This book looks at how the relationship between citizens, the state and EU institutions has changed in a multi-layered Union. As such, it focuses more on polity than on populism, and does not engage deeply with policy or output legitimacy. Building on the notion of increasing social, economic and political interdependence across borders, this book asks whether a sense of solidarity and European identity can be rescued from the bottom up by empowering citizens to ‘take back control’ of their Union, and offers insightful conclusions by Richard Youngs.
PROVIDUS contribution to this book includes a chapter on EU-level engagement by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Latvia. It concludes that while most CSOs are well informed about opportunities to influence EU level politics, most choose not to use them. Furthermore, CSOs believe that the most effective way to influence EU-level politics is either by participating expert groups or by cooperating in international umbrella organisations. At the same time, opinion on shaping Latvian national positions or meeting with MEPs varies – some believe these methods to be wildly effective, while others dismiss them as ineffective.
The article also includes a list of recommendations to facilitate the participation of CSOs in EU level politics. These include (1) improving the accessibility of various low-cost and low-effort methods of participation, (2) creating tools that specifically motivate MEPs to organise meetings with CSOs, (3) facilitating the participation of Latvian CSOs in various transnational organisation, as well as (4) specific efforts to personally request engagement from the most active organisations.
The full publication, as well as the PROVIDUS chapter is available here.
Direct Democracy in the EU: The Myth of a Citizens’ Union is part of the ‘Towards a Citizens’ Union’ project and is the product of collaboration with 20 renowned think tanks from the European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN). It is the first of three publications that will also cover the state of representative democracy in the EU and the accountability of democratic institutions.
Project is financed by Erasmus+ Jean Monnet program with support from the European Commission.