EU grandees map trail for restoring citizens’ trust ahead of 2019 elections

Participants at the Friends of Europe annual conference in Brussels on 12 October 2017.

Against the backdrop of yet another EU political crisis, this time with Catalonia seeking independence, opinion makers and decision makers in Brussels have tried to sketch a plan for rebutting populist pressures and restore trust in the European Union

“You can only fight fear if you build trust,” said Jacques Bughin, director at McKinsey & Company, pointing at the declining trust in Europe which has gone from 57% in 2007 to today’s 42%.

Speaking at the Friends of Europe annual conference on Thursday (12 October), Bughin insisted that it is a management problem to which solutions can be made available.

“To rebuild trust, European citizens need to be more engaged in the European project. In addition to a more effective narrative, there is a need to improve services of delivery—in other words engaging citizens,” Bughin ended.

Ban conferences in Brussels

Provoking the EU bubble thinkers, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt proposed a five-year ban on holding conferences about Europe in Brussels, pointing at the disconnect between the citizens and policymakers. “More meetings in Tallinn and Leipzig than in Brussels,” he thundered.

Bildt noted that the period of transformation ushered by the end of the industrial age and the beginning of the digital age has made politics lose its foothold. In this period of an unprecedented change, Bildt advocated a mindset switch.

Praising French President Emmanuel Macron for his forward-looking speech, Bildt said his ideas of public consultations and debates in all member states should be taken seriously. Other leaders should follow suit because they embrace Europe, not Brussels.

Macron sinks teeth into EU taboos in forward-looking speech

Treaty change, agricultural policy and debt: French President Emmanuel Macron attacked a number of previously untouchable EU taboos during a speech focused on reform, sharing ambitious proposals for Europe’s future with university students. EURACTIV France reports.

Bold citizens’ emancipation

Founder and director of the European Democracy Lab, Ulrike Guérot, reaffirmed the idea already expressed in her book that it is time to move from the idea of United States of Europe to the one of Republic.

If we want the completion of the Maastricht Treaty, she said, we need to build a community of citizens equal in front of the law. In the current Union, citizens are not equal, they are fragmented and segmented in national law rulings.

“At the moment we do not vote the same way, we do not pay the same taxes and we don’t have the same access to social rights, so we cannot pretend to build a democracy,” she said, stressing that only like that we would change the paradigm.

“A Republic – Guérot underlined – is precisely citizens’ sovereignty, all equal  in front of the law, making them the stars of the system.“ At the moment, EU member states decide in a very opaque way, citizens have only limited sovereignty through the European Parliament, she insisted, calling for a bold emancipation project.

 Use technology to decentralise debates

Karel Janecek, a Czech activist and mathematician, who after a series of corruption scandals engaged in a number of initiatives to improve government accountability through citizens actions and electoral reform, called for a rethink of decentralisation and engagement with new technologies.