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What Practical Steps Could The European Parliament Take To Build Awareness And Support Of The Institution Among The European Public?

2179 words - 9 pages

The Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly states that the Union is founded upon “…principles of democracy” and “places the individual at the heart of its activities.” Putting these two founding ideas from the Preamble into a comprehensive guide for democracy in the European Union, one can deduce the importance of an individual’s participation within the supranational entity. Given that voter participation is an indispensable element of a legitimate democratic process, it therefore remains essential for the European Union to promote its democratic nature and intent. The easiest way to do this is through its only democratically elected body: the European Parliament. In order for both internal members and external observers of the Union to perceive it as a legitimate democratic entity, the Union ought to seek to maximize the democratic utility of the European Parliament. As the only directly elected institution within the European Union, the European Parliament carries a special and unique responsibility in establishing and maintaining the democratic reputation of the entire European Union. In this paper, by first providing a description of the Parliament and the deficiencies of its current role within the Union, I will suggest a variety of steps to be taken by both the European Parliament and the European Union to foster awareness and support of the institution amongst the European Public. The concept of an European identity, the role and use of the media, and the quality of election campaigns are three interrelated ideas that, if dually cultivated, could have a highly beneficial impact on the awareness and support of the European Parliament amongst the public.
Although the purpose of this paper is to provide a suggestion for a normative behaviour of the European Parliament in regards to public participation, it is important to first understand the significance of the Parliament’s unique structure. The European Parliament is currently composed of over 700 Members of Parliament (MEPs) that are elected as representatives by the citizens nearly thirty states (Dinan 2010). MEPs run for election within their member state every five years. The size of the population of each member state is responsible for determining the number of MEPs that each member state receives. While the current system of establishing the number of MEPs per member state, known as “digressive proportionality”, has historically been subject of controversy, at present, smaller member states have a disproportionately greater representation than larger states (Dinan 2010). The favourable nature of the representation of smaller states has been a challenge to the democratic legitimacy and stability of the Parliament. It is also important to note that since the establishment of the European Parliament, the MEPs have been continually bargaining within the European Union for increased power. The MEPs state that increased power to the...

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