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Making the European elections more democratic and boosting participation – Ground is prepared, say two Commission reports

European Commission - IP/14/321   27/03/2014

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 27 March 2014

Making the European elections more democratic and boosting participation – Ground is prepared, say two Commission reports

Two months ahead of the European Parliament elections, two new reports published by the Commission provide an overview of the decisive steps taken to make these elections even more democratic and to bring European politics closer to citizens. One report analyses how the Commission's recommendations for increasing the transparency and democratic legitimacy of the European elections, made last year (IP/13/215), have been taken up by Member States and political parties. A crucial recommendation was notably to ask European political parties to nominate lead candidates for the post of President of the Commission. A second report looks at the new communication tool of Citizens' Dialogues developed by the Commission over the last 18 months as an instrument to inform people, restore trust in European and national institutions and make citizens aware that their voice does count in the EU. The publication of these two reports coincides with a Pan-European Citizens' Dialogue taking place in Brussels today with over 150 citizens coming from all over Europe (IP/14/295).

"European elections need to be truly European. Citizens need to know how their choice fits into the bigger European picture. For the first time in the history of European integration, a debate has started around clearly designated candidates for the presidency of the Commission. This is the birth of a truly European democracy," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "But democracy isn't just about Election Day. It's about debating Europe's future with people at local level, all year round. We held over 50 Citizens' Dialogues in every EU Member State and found that citizens have a real thirst for discussing European issues face-to-face with politicians. In Europe we need to speak to each other, rather than about each other."

Preparing the ground for the European elections

Over 50 Dialogues have been held in all Member States (see Annex 2), with 22 European Commissioners participating, usually alongside Members of the European Parliament, national, regional or local politicians.

More than 16,000 citizens took part in the Citizens' Dialogues, with over 105,000 people participating via live web stream and social media. The Dialogues were open door events so that everyone interested could join the debate. Today the final all-day, pan-European Citizens' Dialogue, is being held in Brussels with President José Manuel Barroso and ten European Commissioners bringing together participants of previous Dialogues from across Europe (watch the Dialogue online here).

A report on the Citizens' Dialogues published today shows that these Dialogues have gone a long way in giving EU policy a human face. The format has started to take root in Member States, with national politicians in countries such as Germany, Bulgaria and Ireland launching Dialogues of their own.

These open debates with European, national and local politicians have proven to be a unique way of engaging directly with citizens, and are part of the European Commission's preparation for the European elections in May. They have kicked off a debate in which citizens could directly address their questions on the future of the Union and EU policies to European and national politicians. This helped turning the Dialogues into truly European events, contributing to the development of a European Public Space.

The need for such dialogues is confirmed by citizens: Today, two out of three Europeans feel that their voice is not being heard (see Annex 4) and nearly 9 in 10 participants (88%) during the Citizens' Dialogues expressed their strong wish to have more such Dialogues (see Annex 5).

To complement these efforts, a handbook on EU citizens' main rights "Did you know: 10 EU rights at a glance" is being published this week, as announced in the 2013 EU Citizenship Report. The handbook includes information on the right to take part in the EU's decision-making process, including the European elections.

Doing it differently this time around

On 12 March 2013, the Commission adopted a Recommendation calling on European political parties to nominate their candidates for President of the Commission and recommending they display their European political party affiliation. A year on, six European political parties have made their candidates known and are planning to raise awareness about their candidates' programmes. Politicising the elections with top candidates has received widespread support amongst citizens too - the latest "Future of Europe" Eurobarometer survey published this week shows that seven out of ten Europeans would even go further and say that the Commission president should be directly elected by EU citizens (see Annex 3).

Thanks to Commission action, Member States also swiftly transposed the EU rules (Directive 2013/1/EU) which are going to make it easier for candidates to stand in their Member States of residence (IP/14/87). All Member States adopted the transposition laws and all but one (the Czech Republic see MEMO/14/241) have already notified such laws to the Commission.

Some challenges remain: The Commission's calls for a single voting day across Europe and for political parties to display their European political party affiliations on the ballots are not yet widely taken up. In the latter case, this is due to the fact that electoral legislation in several Member States does not allow ballot papers to display names of logos of European political parties (see Annex 1).

The Commission will produce a full report including the implementation of its recommendations after the European elections.

Further information

Report on the European elections recommendation

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/citizen/news/140327_en.htm

Report on the citizens’ dialogues

http://ec.europa.eu/debate-future-europe/citizens-dialogues/belgium/brussels3/index_en.htm

Online table of implementation of Commission's recommendation on European elections

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/voting-rights/index_en.htm

More on the Citizens' Dialogues and the Debate on the future of Europe

ec.europa.eu/debate-future-europe

"Future of Europe" Eurobarometer

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_419_400_en.htm#413

Website of Vice-President Viviane Reding: ec.europa.eu/reding

Follow Vice-President Reding on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 296 74 56)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

ANNEX

Annex 1. National law on what can be displayed on voting ballots

NB: The online version of this table will be updated regularly based on further input from the Member States and will be accessible under: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/voting-rights/index_en.htm

Annex 2. The debate on Europe's future continues…

Member State

City

Date

Commissioner

EU, national, regional and local politicians

Spain

Cadiz

27/09/2012

Reding

Mayor Martinez Saiz

Austria

Graz

05/11/2012

Reding

Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger

Germany

Berlin

10/11/2012

Reding

MEP Roth-Behrendt

France

Paris

23/11/2012

Reding

Italy

Naples

30/11/2012

Andor

Mayor de Magistris

Ireland

Dublin

10/01/2013

Barroso, Reding

Prime Minister Kenny, Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore, Minister of State for European Affairs Creighton

Sweden

Gothenburg

18/02/2013

Malmström

Italy

Turin

21/02/2013

Malmström

Mayor Fassino

Portugal

Coimbra

22/02/2013

Reding

Italy

Rome

18/03/2013

Tajani

Mayor Alemanno

Greece

Thessaloniki

22/03/2013

Reding

Mayor Boutaris

Italy

Pisa

05/04/2013

Potočnik

Mayor Filippeschi

Belgium

Ghent

12/04/2013

De Gucht

Mayor Termont

Belgium

Eupen

23/04/2013

Hahn

MEP Grosch, Minister-President (German Community) Lambertz

Belgium

Brussels

04/05/2013

Reding

(former) Minister-President of the Brussels region Picqué

Germany

Dusseldorf

08/05/2013

Oettinger

MEP Klute

Slovenia

Ljubljana

09/05/2013

Potočnik

Poland

Warsaw

11/05/2013

Lewandowski

Czech Republic

Prague

13/05/2013

Füle

Minister of State for Small Business (Ireland) Perry, Chairman of the Czech Parliament’s EU Affairs Committee Bauer

Italy

Ventotene

27/05/2013

Tajani

Mayor Assenso

Italy

Milan

07/06/2013

Hedegaard

Mayor Pisapia

Luxembourg

Esch

30/06/2013

Reding

MEP Goerens, Minister for Labour Schmit, MP Braz, Minister of Public Works, Agriculture, Rural Affairs, Patrimony and Nature Policy (Wallonia) Lutgen

Poland

Warsaw

11/07/2013

Barroso, Reding

Prime Minister Tusk, MEP Thun, former Prime Minister Mazowiecki

Greece

Heraklion

12/07/2013

Damanaki

MEP Danellis, Governor Arnaoutakis

Germany

Heidelberg

16/07/2013

Reding

Minister-President (Baden-Wurttemberg) Kretschmann

Bulgaria

Sofia

23/07/2013

Reding

President Plevneliev

Belgium

Namur

13/09/2013

Reding

Minister-President Demotte

Estonia

Tallinn

14/09/2013

Kallas, Rehn

Italy

Trieste

16/09/2013

Reding

Minister of European Affairs Moavero Milanesi

Finland

Helsinki

24/09/2013

Reding

MEP Pietikäinen

Hungary

Györ

03/10/2013

Andor

State Secretary for European Affairs Győri, MEP Őry

Slovak Republic

Košice

05/10/2013

Šefčovic

Slovak Parliament President Paška

Sweden

Stockholm

15/10/2013

Reding

Minister for European Union Affairs Ohlsson, MEP Ludvigsson

Belgium

Liège

17/10/2013

Barroso

Deputy Prime Minister Reynders (Belgium), Minister for Economics (Wallonia) Marcourt

Latvia

Riga

18/10/2013

Piebalgs

Minister of Defence Pabriks

Malta

Valetta

07/11/2013

Borg

France

Marseille

14/11/2013

Reding

Minister of Justice Taubira

Cyprus

Limassol

28/11/2013

Vassiliou

Austria

Eisenstadt

29/11/2013

Hahn

Minister-President (Burgenland) Niessl

Belgium

Brussels

05/12/2013

Vassiliou

MEP Durant

Lithuania

Vilnius

13/12/2013

Reding

Online

Virtual dialogue

16/01/2014

Reding

Denmark

Copenhagen

06/02/2014

Hedegaard

UK

London

10/02/2014

Reding

Minister of State for Europe Lidington

Spain

Barcelona

23/02/2014

Reding

France

Paris-Banlieue

27/02/2014

Barnier

Minister Delegate for European Affairs Repentin

Croatia

Zagreb

03/03/2014

Mimica

Germany

Koblenz

10/03/2014

Oettinger

Minister-President (Rhineland-Palatinate) Dreyer, State Minister for Europe (Rhineland-Palatinate) Conrad

Netherlands

Amsterdam

14/03/2014

Reding

Mayor van der Laan

Romania

Bucharest

17/03/2014

Ciolos

EU

Pan-European Dialogue Brussels

27/03/2014

Barroso, Reding, Rehn, Potočnik, Vassiliou, De Gucht, Damanaki, Hahn, Hedegaard, Andor, Mimica

MEP Roth-Behrendt, Mayor of Cadiz, Martinez Saiz

Annex 3. Seven out of ten Europeans want a directly elected Commission president

Annex 4: Two out of three Europeans feel that their voice is not being heard

Source: Standard Eurobarometer 80, Autumn 2013, p.8

Annex 5: Results of Surveys carried out during Citizens' Dialogues

Source: Commisison Report on Citizens' Dialogues, p.10


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