Fri Nov 9th, 2007 at 03:41:58 PM EST
This diary is meant to illustrate what I proposed in the ET Think Lab diary and in the Open Source Social Democracy diary
I propose to work together on a contribution we could put on the PESmanifesto debate on European democracy and diversity and send to some media as an op-ed.
The theme is: how could we improve the relationship between the EU institutions and the European citizens and how could we make the European citizens take ownership of the European Union?
To start the debate, I will recycle what I wrote in this comment about the ways to improve democracy in the EU by working on the relationship between the European level and the national/local level:
At the moment, the European level and the national/local level are very much disconnected form each other. It is true for the institutions and administrations as well as for the civil society organisations.
Paradoxically, it is probably because the European Union is not bureaucratic enough... As Migeru mentioned it, given the size of the EU (now ~500 millions of citizens), the European Commission has a surprising low number of agents (you could almost drown them in a big bathtub... well, maybe a swimming pool!). What is less known is that it's also true for the civil society organisations like the trade unions, the employers' organisations and the NGOs as well as the national representations: their Brussels-based teams are very small. For example, in the European permanent secretariat of the European Trade-Unions Confederation, there is at the most one or two team members coming from a given country and some countries have no permanent member in the team. Ditto for Business Europe and UEAPME (the employer's organisations), let alone the NGOs.
These teams are usually very knowledgeable about the functioning of the European institutions and they have developed a high level of expertise in working together. however, their small size has an important consequence: each person in these small teams has a very heavy workload (meeting MEP, preparing dossiers, participating in negotiations, attending commissions and work groups, informing/training new member states representatives...) and thus they have no time left to play the essential role of go-between with their colleagues at national and local levels in order to share their knowledge and disseminate information. The result is the existence of a micro-society which is very efficient (yes!), but disconnected from the national and local level. And I think it is true also for the European political parties and for the MEP who are really involved in the parliament (unlike most of the French ones!).
And here is the vicious circle: given the high level of skills and knowledge of these people, and the necessary cost/time to acquire them, and given the depth of their commitment, the turn-over is very low, so there is little dissemination of knowledge/information through "shuttle" effect.
Even if I think these teams should be reinforced, I don't think the solution is to develop huge Brussels-based teams.
What is your opinion on this problem?
In my comment, I suggested to work at several levels:
- to set-up awareness-raising and educational programmes to improve the European citizens knowledge of European institutions,
- to organise ambitious training/exchange schemes bringing together counterparts from several countries to work on a common issue, both monopartite (trade-unionists with trade-unionists) and multipartite (employers, trade-unionists, elected representatives, NGOs representatives...). If ambitious enough, this would produce a significant number of Europe-knowledgeable/skilled people among national and local actors in each member state and, thus, create a pool which would facilitate and improve the turn-over. Such schemes already exist but, so far, they address a very limited number of persons, thus they are not significant enough.
- to foster and support the creation of European networks in which stakeholders cooperate on common projects and through that, come to share experiences and point of views,
- to set-up Europe-wide political organisations and parties which develop Europe-wide political programs and campaign together on common issues,
- to encourage and facilitate the development of European media (newspapers, TV channels, Radios, Internet portals, Blogs(!)...).
Do you agree with these ideas? Could we develop them? What suggestions would you make?