Nevertheless, over the last years, another particularly strong criticism related to the democratic deficit has emerged (Follesdal & Hix, 2006). The argument is that the EU has been driven by political elites and the citizens’ preferences have not been included. As a result, the legitimacy of the decision–making process has been challenged and the European leaders had to respond to it (Nello, 2009, p.43).
Granting the directly elected European Parliament (which primarily represents European citizens) equal legislative powers with the Council of the European Union (which primarily represents member states) was one of the most significant developments of the EU’s attempt to address the accusation of democratic deficit. Same goes for the introduction of the institutional framework and independent funding for European political parties, whose main purpose is to help filling the gap between EU’s institutions and its citizens.
However, the accusations of democratic deficit have resurfaced stronger than ever since the start of the eurozone crisis in late 2009, whose handling has seen the unelected European Commission and European Central Bank, as well as the informal Eurogroup (which consists of the finance ministers of the eurozone member states), imposing structural policies with significant economic, social and political consequences on countries such as Greece, Spain or Portugal. (Armingeon & Guthmann, 2014).
Let’s then see how the EU institutions have been reformed over the years and whether the reform aimed to bring the EU ‘as close to citizens a possible’.