GovNews – 31 March 2014 – Does the European Union have a democratic deficit?

GovNews is a brief round-up of a select number of the most interesting conversations happening on GovFaces. In today’s GovNews, MEPs discuss whether there is a democracy deficit in the European Union, whether the union needs a common foreign and security policy, and if the United Kingdom is better off in or out of the E.U.

 

1. The democratic deficit of the European Union is creating a feeling of alienation among citizens. What can be done to tackle this major problem? 

As the powers of the Union grew, so did its complexity; the project became more and more opaque through the years, resulting in a lack of interest and trust from citizens.

eurobarometer 79

MEP Griesbeck (France) put forward a few ideas she supports and considers would make Europe the type of the democracy it aspires to be (via GovFaces):

  • directly electing a president of the EU by popular vote; this would allow citizens to identify a legitimate leader:

“Il est essentiel que celui ou celle qui s’acquittera de cette fonction soit un personnage politique et charismatique d’envergure.”

  • Strengthening the prerogatives of the European Parliament: the EP deserves to be able to initiate legislation, a role currently reserved for the Commission (whose members are not directly elected, as opposed to the Members of the European Parliament);
  • More efforts to be made in terms of communication at the EU and national levels, in order to inform citizens of policies and the processes which devise and implement them;
  • Lastly, Mme Griesbeck contends that politicians should stop using the EU as a scapegoat.

 

2. In light of recent developments in Ukraine, should the EU consider a common security and defense strategy?

The recent crisis on the eastern borders of the European Union revived a long-standing discussion over the lack of a common defense and security policy. After the Second World War, the European Coal and Steel Community was set up partly to bind together the major industrial economies in Western Europe, thus reducing or eliminating altogether the possibility of another devastating war between the continent’s major players. The ECSC has gone through major transformations, and today the EU is faced with potential military crises on its borders, raising the question which had been dismissed throughout the past decades: should Europe have a common foreign policy and security policy?

MEP Norica Nicolai (Romania) expressed her views on the matter in a response on GovFaces:

“In my opinion, regarding the security situation in the Ukraine, the lack of a common security policy is a major vulnerability for the EU. I think that in the context of the present Treaty provisions as well as in its possible revisions, the EU must have its own armed forces as well as institutions which are capable of responding to any eventual security risks.”
Furthermore, Mrs. Nicolai recently published an open letter in which the issues of Schengen integration and security vulnerabilities are tied together:
“Without a unified, fully integrated Schengen Area, the fragmentation presented by holding Romania and Bulgaria at arm’s length will only make it easier for gaps to appear in the defences of Europe.” (full letter here, in Romanian)
The Schengen Area consists of 26 states (22 EU members) and was formed to remove passport and visa requirements. The states at the periphery need to ensure strict border controls in order to provide security for the entire area.

3. The UK: in or out of Europe?

One of the hot topics in today’s news is the role of the UK in relation to Europe. The first of two debates between UKIP leader Nigel Farage and deputy PM Nick Clegg was held last week; the debates center on whether the UK is better off within the EU or should exit.

MEP Catherine Bearder (UK) expressed her views on the matter on GovFaces. Having herself proposed a debate with UKIP’s #2 (not yet scheduled), she stated the two most important topics she would like to see covered in such a meeting:

“Jobs and economic recovery. It will come down to identifying the two options, IN for our economic benefit and job security or OUT for an isolated and restricted country on the fringes of the EU. I am looking forward to the debates by our respective leaders.”
Asked what the effects of the UK leaving the EU would be, she replied:
“It would be disasterous, it would jeopardise jobs and the economic recovery. We would still have to obey all the rules that the EU sets, as we would want to continue to trade with its members, yet we would have no say in how those rules would be set.”
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