The best of Democratic Audit’s 2015 coverage of the European Union

As always, this year has been an eventful one on the continent, with the Brexit referendum on the horizon and political clashes over the terms of the UK’s membership, as well as a migrant crisis and the Greek crisis. Here, we round up 10 of the best articles on Democratic Audit which focus on the European Union, European integration, and our shared continental political institutions.

Credit: Geert Schneider, CC BY 2.0If Eurosceptic parties continue to prosper European elections could hinder further European integration 

Turnout in European Parliament (EP) elections once again decreased in 2014. This observation seems worrying for many scholars and practitioners regarding the EU’s democratic legitimacy. However, by analysing the characteristics and motivations of European non-voters using EU-wide post-electoral survey data,Constantin Schäfer argues that a higher turnout in European elections might not necessarily lead to more political stability in the EU. 

 

Credit: thierry ehrmann, CC BY 2.0The Greek crisis should be the spur for the creation of a better European democracy

Does the Greek crisis prove the limitations of European integration? Cristina Ares Castro-Conde writes that the real question facing Europe is not whether integration should be rolled back, but how European democracy can be improved. She suggests that a first step could be to create a parallel European Parliament composed of MEPs from Eurozone states which has the power to subject the decisions of the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank to proper democratic scrutiny.

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Credit: Grzegorz Jereczek, CC BY SA 2.0Recruitment procedures shape the gender composition of party lists in European Parliament elections 

Different countries select their Members of the European Parliament in different manners, with Britain opting for a party list system based on regional (in the case of England) and national constituencies (in the cases of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The European Parliament has better gender representation than most legislatures, however as Jessica Fortin-Rittberger, Berthold Rittberger, and Sarah Dingler argue, the recruitment procedures used by parties shape the gender composition of the lists that prospective MEPs appear on. 

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Credit: Jean-Claude Juncker, CC BY NC 2.0If the European Union wishes to increase its standing with the public, improved performance and greater accountability will be required 

In recent years, the European Union appears to have been in perennial fire-fighting mode. During this time, there has been a noted decline in the public’s trust for EU institutions. Here, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi argues that while more accountability is important, the main thing that the EU can do to regain lost trust is to perform better, and suggests some practical reforms that could be undertaken to bring this about. 

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Credit: Takver, CC BY NC 2.0

The lack of collective will in Europe regarding refugees is indefensible

As the refugee crisis intensifies and pressure mounts for a pan-Europe strategy, Melanie Henwood examines the confused debate and argues that Britain must not stand by as a mere spectator to an unfolding tragedy, which is tearing families apart, fuelling radicalism and related violence, and tarnishing Europe’s reputation as a welcoming and compassionate continent. 

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Credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY NC 2.0Saving the Euro at all costs could lead to an eventual hollowing out of European democracy

Since the global financial and Eurozone crises hit Western economies, a process of change has been underway which has seen a new model of technocratic financial and economic governance take hold across Europe. Alexander Ruser argues that these reforms – born of a desire to save the Euro “at all costs” could see democracy eventually hollowed out, as the will of the people increasingly begins to come secondary to the whims of markets and currency. 

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Changing times? (Credit: Niccolo Caranti, CC BY NC 2.0)Recent trends in Italy showcase the ‘presidentialised’ future of democratic politics in Europe

Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were both accused of taking British politics into a ‘presidential’ direction, with highly visible and ‘strong’ leaders seen as the defining political force. But this trend is not unique to the UK, with Italy also moving in this direction under first Silvio Berlusconi, and secondly the incumbent Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The trends that have shaped this change are not unique to either of these countries as Fortunato Musella argues, with developments in Italy likely to repeat across the continent and influence the shape of European politics to come.

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Credit: Troels Dejgaard Hansen, CC BY NC 2.0Domestic and European parliamentarians of the same party tend to pay attention to the same policy issues

Do members of the European Parliament (MEPs) act remote from their national party or do they coordinate their behaviour with their ‘home base’? Using data on written parliamentary questions from Danish MPs and Danish MEPs, Roman Senninger and Daniel Bischof show that issue attention across the national and European levels converges, especially within parties represented at both parliamentary levels.

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Credit: Emiliano, CC BY NC SA 2.0Poor visibility and design flaws are hampering the participatory potential of the European Citizens’ Initiative

The European Citizens’ Initiative was introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon with the aim to improve and expand participation in European Union policy-making. Sergiu Gherghina and Adriana Groh argue that its potential is being hampered by poor citizen knowledge of the initiative, and multiple design flaws. 

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Credit: Motoyen, CC BY 2.0Keep your distance: on the relationship between European integration and religion

The European continent has a history of religious entanglement and change, while its recent past has been in large part defined by the experience of European integration. But how do the two interact? Simona Guerra argues that EU integration can become a turning point for religiosity, and widen the gap between that part of the society moving towards more secularism and anti-secular and conservative groups.

Note: this post represents the views of the authors and not those of Democratic Audit UK or the LSE. Please read our comments policy before posting. Cover image credit: Credit: Jean-Claude Juncker, CC BY NC 2.0

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