DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
This module aims to draw the path of democracy within the European Union. Has it reached the end pf the line? Are there new ways and means to implement it? Starting from the words of Altiero Spinelli, our intention is to analyse contemporary issues and political challenges, through the lens of history.
THE VENTOTENE MANIFESTO AND DEMOCRACY IN THE EU
“The fall of the totalitarian regimes will, in the feelings of entire populations, mean the coming
of "freedom"; all restrictions will disappear and, automatically, very wide freedom of speech
and assembly will reign supreme. It will be the triumph of democratic beliefs”
So reads the Ventotene Manifesto, written in 1941 by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi during their confinement on the island of Ventotene.
The Ventotene Manifesto aimed at the creation of a European federal union equipped with a Parliament and a democratic government. What is the situation nowadays? How does democracy work within the European Union?
THE INSTRUMENTS OF DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
In the European Union we find two main instruments through which European citizens
can make their voice count. Fist of all, the most important instrument of democracy
is the European Parliament which, as a matter of fact, is the only European institution directly
elected by the citizens. Secondly, we find the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI),
an instrument that allows European citizens to invite the Commission to submit a proposal
for a legal act to implement the EU Treaties.
Let’s learn more about them!
‘Democratic deficit’ is a term used by those people who argue that the EU institutions and
their decision-making procedures suffer from a lack of democracy and seem inaccessible to
ordinary citizens due to their complexity. The real EU democratic deficit seems to be the
absence of European politics. EU voters do not feel that they have an effective way to reject
a ‘government’, they do not like, and to change, in some ways, the course of politics and
The public are still generally pro-European, but they do not understand the political system
that sometimes appears to threaten their way of life.
Disaffection with Europe has been expressed in the low turnouts at European elections,
which reached an all-time low in 2009 with an EU average of just 43 %.
The issue of democratic legitimacy has been sensitive at each stage of the process of European integration. The issue was addressed in the intergovernmental conferences leading up to the signing of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice Treaties by giving more powers to the European Parliament (EP) and extending the areas in which had joint decision-making powers with Council. As a result, the EP has evolved from a consultative
assembly to a co-legislator.
The Lisbon Treaty has strengthened the European Parliament’s financial, legislative and
supervisory powers. The EP has also acquired considerable influence in the appointment of
the Commission and its President.
In addition, the European Citizens' Initiative was created and the importance of dialogue
between civil society and the European institutions was recognised. Lastly, certain Council
sessions have been made public to improve citizens' access to information on the positions
of their decision makers.
Divide the class in three groups. Each one of them has to find at least two means to make
the European Union more democratic. They will have 10 minutes and then they have to
present these two means to the class. At the end the class has to choose the three best