Sunday

27th Nov 2022

Opinion

A 'citizen scenario' for the future of Europe

  • Latest Eurobarometer survey shows 52 percent believe their voice does not count in the EU. (Photo: Lorie Shaull)

At the beginning of this year's state of the union address, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, spoke of a "window of opportunity … to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025."

Revisiting the debate he started in March with the "Five scenarios for Europe by 2025", he set out his own "scenario six" for the future of Europe, combining elements of each of the original scenarios.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • President Juncker delivered his state of the union speech on 13 September. (Photo: European Commission)

Setting out a vision of freedom, equality and rule of law, president Juncker had positive words for the harmony, stability and democracy that would be welcome to a renewal of the European project, but missed out the key ingredient that is essential to the EU's legitimacy and sustainability - its citizens.

In fact, citizens have been missing from the future of Europe debate from the very beginning, despite the aim of the debate to "advance our project in the interests of our citizens".

Yet, digital technologies and platforms present a unique opportunity to transform the relationship between governors and the governed into more of a partnership and to build mechanisms of participatory democracy. For Europe, this means that the EU can become a collaborative project in which everyone has a voice.

Digital democracy has great potential to enhance the existing participatory mechanisms by drawing on the "wisdom of the crowd", tapping into hidden expertise and engaging those groups who participate least in democratic society - most notably young people.

Existing methods of e-participation in Europe - the European Citizens' Initiative, online public consultations and petitions to the European Parliament - are insufficient and must be improved.

In addition, the EU needs to learn from the plethora of e-participation and crowdsourcing methods being developed and implemented around the world.

If Paris can crowdsource part of its budget, Finland can implement successful citizens' initiatives and Latvia can regularly consult its citizens through a platform of Open Government, then why can't the EU?

Furthermore, the EU needs to build on the strong words president Juncker had for the significance of the rule of law in the EU.

The rights that are conferred onto EU citizens by their EU citizenship need to be effectively enforced and properly implemented.

Free movement of people is supported by 81 percent of EU citizens, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey, yet free movement rights are either being challenged or inadequately implemented across the EU.

President Juncker hinted at the need for a stronger connection between the policies, decisions and strategies that are formulated at EU level and the ideas, concerns and interests of EU citizens.

But undefined "democratic conventions" and transnational MEP lists in European elections, for which he expressed "support" and "sympathy" respectively are not enough.

The change in language is welcome, but the substance is not yet there.

Likewise, strong words on the rule of law need to be backed up by actions that guarantee EU citizens the rights they are entitled to by law.

As the latest Eurobarometer survey shows, trust in the EU stands at only 42 percent, 58 percent of Europeans have a negative view of it and 52 percent believe their voice does not count in the EU.

For these reasons, the future of Europe debate needs a 'citizen scenario' - a vision of a future in which the EU is truly a Union of its citizens.

European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) is an NGO empowering citizens and civil society within the European Union to exercise their rights and promoting open and inclusive decision-making.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Juncker calls for united EU under one leader

The Commission president wants his position to be merged with the presidency of the European Council, and for all EU states to be in the eurozone and Schengen by 2019, post-Brexit.

Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence

We're asking the EU to stop hiding behind pinkwashed slogans and finally walk the talk by providing all necessary legal tools to guarantee women their rights, say two Left MEPs, for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  2. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  3. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  4. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  5. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  6. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo
  7. 'No substance' price ceiling for gas leaves everyone disgruntled
  8. Paying consumers who save most energy could tame gas prices

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us