Posted on 30. May 2014
The financial crisis has rekindled debates about the legitimacy of the European Union (EU) and, in particular, whether citizens trust the EU and its deepening democratic deficit. My question for people who claim they have “lost faith in the EU” is really simple. Think in business terms. How can you trust a partner you do not interact with? Before deciding to be passive in EU related debates and before criticizing all day long EU for its democratic deficit we should simply do our homework –inform ourselves on main EU issues, interact with the EU by active engagement in public debates and by voting in the European elections. This is how trust can be built on the long run. How can you build a partnership in “a blind date”? If we want to manifest our anger for the EU by widening its democratic deficit, than we contribute to the problem itself instead of finding a solution.
I would not go for a “blind date” with European institutions because I would never trust them that way. I would rather build a partnership that would be in my best interest as an EU citizen. And for that I need to engage in the public agora. I need interaction with the EU in order to find solutions, not using it as the perfect ‘scape goat’ for all the bad things in this world.
I think democracy is like a long-term relationship. For a couple to stay together, it needs commitment, openness and adaptability. In some cases such a commitment involves sacrifices and resilience. to prevent democracy to work only for the benefit of a small elite group that is involved in EU policy debates. There is a need for an active civic culture so that citizens can hold their leaders accountable. In other words, democracy needs a self-reflectivedemos in order to function. Democracy is the name we put to the long-term relationship between the people and their political representatives. It needs commitment, openness and adaptability and these are the main features of a ‘demos’. This may seem common sense, but looking at some recent figures we ask ourselves what happened to Europe’s demos. According to Eurostat, 96 million people are categorized as youth in the EU, amounting to 19,5% of the total EU population. If we add to this number the very low turnout at the last European Parliament elections (33% of 18-24 year olds in 2004 and 29% in 2009) we can conclude that EU’s demos lacks precisely what it needs the most – its young citizens.
I strongly believe that young people would welcome the responsibility of creating future European policies ans institutions and can add fresh insights. Young people should raise their voice at the decision making level and that is a matter of urgency! When young people are given responsibility they will take that responsibility, so invite them at the table. The first base for this to happen is European elections! We can coherently articulate our view for the change by going to the polls in May 2014. Because, in the end, our democracy is exhausting but rewarding, calling upon young people’s resilience.