How to reform the European Union

In the media you often hear how the European Union suffers from a democratic deficit: that it is not democratic and the institutional setting is far too complex to be understood by its citizens. Although the Treaties have been adjusted to respond to the legitimacy and accountancy related problems over the years – for example by reinforcing the powers of the Parliament and giving it more intergovernmental control over the European Commission, or the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty such as more scope for co-decision procedure – there is still a very low turnout at the elections to the European Parliament.



Examine a selection of the Eurobarometer polls over the recent years (i.e. 1990-2012). Look at the attitudes to the EP compared to national governments and parliaments over the years in the graph below. How have they changed, if at all?



Standard Eurobarometer (Spring 2012). Public Opinion in the European Union. p.13.

The way to reform the EU and to enhance citizens’ interest in elections According to Julie Smith’s (2004) proposal is to introduce European direct or indirect elections of the Commission President or the whole of the College of Commissioners.


Read her article selectively: Smith, J (2004). Reinvigorating European Elections. The implications of Electing the European Commission. Chatham House Report.Answer the following questions:

  • What further powers should the EP seek?
  • Are EP elections almost bound to remain second order national contests and protest votes against national governments? If so, are EP elections a waste of time as they currently stand?
  • Europarties need to command loyalty and support from EU citizens. How far is this possible without a European identity or European government to either support or withdraw support from?
  • How could the European Union elections be reformed?