Report Influence

  • Open Europe’s proposals for more parliamentary scrutiny of EU law have been picked up by the UK government, which opted out of a number of EU policy and crime law.
  • Open Europe’s ‘red card’ proposals – which allows a number of national parliaments clubbing together to block unwanted EU law – is backed by all main UK parties as well as governing parties in Sweden and Netherlands.
  • 22 national parliaments have come together to call for a greater role in EU decisions as proposed by Open Europe.
  • In 2014, the new European Commission created post for a Commissioner who is specifically tasked with ensuring that EU does not take decisions that are better handled nationally or locally.

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September 2011

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

European localism instead of ‘ever closer union’

The UK should position itself as the champion of European localism, taking the principles and rhetoric of localism widely endorsed at national level, and applying them at the European level. This would create a movement that counterbalances the drive for ‘ever closer union’ – the EU’s current mantra – and give powers back to member states, communities and individuals. It could command cross-party support in the UK, win traction across Europe – and change the future direction of the EU.

Voter disengagement and the Eurozone crisis make change vital

The opportunity for European localism is the result of two developments:

  • Growing disillusionment with the principle of ever closer union across many member states, both among citizens and politicians;
  • The Eurozone crisis forcing the EU to develop a more variable approach to European cooperation.

The Eurozone crisis is the biggest crisis the EU has faced, with the original principle of ‘ever closer union’ leading directly to financial and political turmoil. It has widened further the gulf between the EU’s leaders and its citizens, with support for the EU dropping to all-time lows in several countries, and growing assertiveness by member states wanting a new direction for the EU.

Open Europe recommendations: How to achieve European localism in practice

Concrete proposals for how to achieve European localism in practice include:

  • Boosting the powers of national parliaments to scrutinise and block EU laws;
  • Creating a Localism or Subsidiarity Taskforce at the EU level, comprising of national parliamentarians and others, charged with identifying what measures can be devolved;
  • A new European Subsidiarity Court to police whether decisions are made at the right level;
  • Taking the European commission to court for subsidiarity breaches;
  • Devolving whatever ever can be devolved now, either unilaterally or within existing Treaties, such as EU police laws or regional policy;
  • More robust ‘impact’ tests at the national and EU level to make sure a law is not better handled locally;
  • Assigning specific staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take a lead on European localism.
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