The EU faces a stark choice: reconnect with citizens or risk rejection

Across Europe, citizens’ trust in the EU has plummeted to 30% – compared to over 50% only a decade ago. Turnout in elections for the European Parliament – the institution meant to re-establish a link between voters and Brussels – has gone down in every single election since direct voting began. From 65% in 1979 to an appalling 42.5% in 2014. This despite MEPs having only gained more powers in that time period. The only feasible way to regain people’s trust is to bring back decisions closer to home – by empowering national Parliaments, local communities, families and individuals.

Trust in the EU
2004 50%
2005 45%
2006 45%
2007 48%
2008 47%
2009 48%
2010 43%
2011 34%
2012 33%
2013 31%
2014 31%

EU citizens declining trust in the EU (2004-2014)

European citizens are increasingly disillusioned by the principle of 'ever-closer-union', as portrayed by the steady decline of trust in the EU. The EU desperately needs to reconnect with citizens: Open Europe recommends embracing the role of national parliaments and enforcing 'European localism', where decisions are taken nationally where possible, and at the EU-level where necessary. This will allow voters to be closer to decision-making via their respective national parliaments, and help to restore trust and democracy to the EU.Source: Eurobarometer

Campaign Success

Open Europe sets out a blueprint for how to turbo-charge democracy in Europe

September 2011 – Open Europe outlines a powerful package of pro-democracy proposals arguing that the EU’s mantra of ‘ever closer union’ should be replaced with a new, citizens-focussed principle: European localism.  Clubbing together, national parliaments should be able to block EU laws – via a so-called ‘red card’. A new Commissioner should be appointed charged by scrapping unnecessary EU laws.

12 parliaments object to Brussels over-meddling

May 2012 – 12 parliaments object to a proposed EU law, which would have given the EU fresh powers over the right to strike. The first time more than a third of national legislatures have officially objected to Brussels meddling in national affairs.

EU leaders adopt Open Europe-inspired safeguards against undemocratic discrimination

December 2012 – EU leaders agree to adopt an approach, pioneered by Open Europe, requiring both euro and non-euro countries to agree to a proposal before it can become law, avoiding the creation of first and second-class EU memberships.

Labour backs Open Europe proposal for boosting EU democracy

January 2013 – Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander says national parliaments should be empowered to block meddling EU laws – as proposed by Open Europe.

David Cameron puts democracy at the heart of seminal EU speech

There is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years.

David Cameron, January 2013

We need to have a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments.

David Cameron, January 2013

UK Conservatives adopt Open Europe ideas

June 2013 – Foreign Secretary William Hague and Europe Minister David Lidington back a “red card” for national parliaments, saying it would make the EU more “democratically sustainable”.

Dutch government calls time on “ever closer union”

June 2013 – In a major victory, the Dutch government calls for and end to “ever closer union” in the EU, outlining 58 areas that should devolved to the national or local level. A government review adopts a number of specific Open Europe recommendations, such as new powers for national parliaments.

The Netherlands is convinced that the time of an ‘ever closer union’ in every possible policy area is behind us.

Government of the Netherlands, Dutch Subsidiarity Review, 21 June 2013

If one-third of national parliaments raise subsidiarity objections to a legislative proposal (the yellow card procedure), the Commission should not just reconsider, it should use its discretion to take the disputed proposal off the table, turning the yellow card into a red.

Frans Timmermans, Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs, 14 November 2013

11 parliaments object to EU over-interference  – but are ignored by Brussels

October 2013 – 11 National Parliaments object to a proposal for a new and powerful European Public Prosecutor. However, the unelected European Commission decides to press ahead with the proposal anyway – showing why elected politicians need more powers to block EU law.

Dutch Parliament demands more democracy

November 2013 – The Dutch House of Representatives proposes greater powers over EU law for citizens and parliaments – including the right to prompt a revision of existing EU law that is no longer fit for purpose.

Open Europe brings together hundreds of Europe’s leading pro-democracy reformers

January 2014 – In the first ever pan-European Conference on EU reform, leading reformers agree a series of action points. In a call trailing the Conference, leading MPs from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Austria, Sweden and the UK says “less Europe” must be an option when “democratic factors so dictate.”

23 Parliaments demand a stronger say over EU decisions

June 2014 – Parliamentarians representing 23 of the EU’s 28 national parliaments sign a letter to European Commission President elect Jean-Claude Juncker warning that trust in the EU is fading, demanding “a stronger and more direct say for national parliaments.”


Open Europe restates demand for a democracy champion in Brussels

August 2014 – Open Europe publishes its Mandate for the new European Commission renewing its call for a designated person within the Commission to be in charge of making sure decisions are made as close as possible to citizens.

Commission appoints Vice-President to boost democracy and scrap red tape

10 September 2014 – Mirroring Open Europe’s proposal, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appoints Frans Timmermans as his right hand man in the new Commission to champion “proportionality and better regulation” while strengthening links “with national parliaments as a way of bringing the European Union closer to citizens.” Timmermans tables a list of EU laws and proposals that should be scrapped as they’re better handled nationally.