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Are citizens able to change European policies?

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Presentation on January 13, 2014 to students of Utrecht University (The Netherlands) about the question whether citizens can influence European policies through the European Parliament. In theory, …

Presentation on January 13, 2014 to students of Utrecht University (The Netherlands) about the question whether citizens can influence European policies through the European Parliament. In theory, this is an option, in practice, it is not.

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  • 1. Are citizens able to change European policies? Chris Aalberts Are citizens able to change European policies? Chris Aalberts Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 2. Who am I? Lecturer, researcher and writer Five books on political communication Blogs on ThePostOnline.nl Who am I? • Lecturer, researcher and writer • Five books on political communication • Blogs on ThePostOnline.nl Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 3. Short quiz Question 1 Who is an MEP for the Netherlands? Short quiz Question 1 • Who is an MEP for the Netherlands? Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 4. Short quiz Question 2 What did this MEP achieve during the seventh legislature (2009-2014)? Short quiz Question 2 • What did this MEP achieve during the seventh legislature (2009-2014)? Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 5. about the EU More European policies than ever before Policies that are not useful (olive oil cans, length of cucumbers) Policies that are too expensive (Greece, agriculture) Citizens have negative opinions about the EU Policies than ever before • More European policies that are controversial • Policies that are not useful (olive oil cans, length of cucumbers) (Turkey, Romanian immigration) • Policies that are too expensive (Greece, agriculture) • Policies that are controversial (Turkey, Romanian immigration) Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 6. What does the European Union look like? Group of institutions Horizontal accountability Vertical accountability is sparse Lack of transparency What does the European Union look like? • Group of institutions • Horizontal accountability • Vertical accountability is sparse • Lack of transparency Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 7. In theory: yes! Explanation The European Parliament (EP) is elected by citizens The power of the EP is increasing since 1979 Is the European Union democratic? Goal of Europhiles to further • In theory: yes! increase the its power Explanation • The European Parliament (EP) is elected by citizens • The Citizens control European policy power of the EP is increasing since 1979 • Goal of Europhiles to further increase the its power • Citizens control European policy making making Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 8. This was the theory Now the practice Are citizens able to change European policies through the EP? This was the theory • Now the practice Are citizens able to change European policies through the EP? Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 9. MEPs are elected representatives of the people What does this mean? Three issues MEPs should know the preferences of citizens Everyday understanding of the EP • MEPs are elected representatives ofwhat they promise MEPs should do the people • What does this mean? MEPs should communicate what Three issues • MEPs should know the preferences of citizens they have done • MEPs should do what they promise • MEPs should communicate what they have done Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 10. MEPs should know the preferences of citizens But do they? Election results are not informative Minority of citizens read these political programs Little information in the media on MEPs should know the preferences of citizens • But do they? these programs Election results are not informative Minority of citizens vote for the EP • Minority of citizens read these political programs • Little information in the media on these programs • Minority of citizens vote for the EP Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 11. of citizens But do they? Public opinion research in not informative Questions indicate general support for the EU MEPs should know the preferences of citizens Questions do not cover issues MEPs • But do they? need to vote on Public opinion research in not informative • Questions indicate general support for the EU • Questions Few exceptions to vote on do not cover issues MEPs need to this rule • Few exceptions to this rule Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 12. of citizens But do they? Contacts with citizens are not informative Citizens sometimes contact MEPs Individual questions, complaints and MEPs should know the preferences of citizens suggestions • But do they? No information about Contacts with citizens are not informative • Citizens sometimes contact MEPs representativeness • Individual questions, complaints and suggestions • No information about representativeness Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 13. of citizens But do they? Lobby groups fill in this gap Extreme amount of lobbyists in Europe Lobby groups inform MEPs about MEPs should know the preferences of citizens relevant issues • But do they? Large role for companies Lobby groups fill in this gap • Extreme amount of lobbyists in Europe • Lobby groupsSmaller role for societal inform MEPs about relevant issues • Large role for companies • Smaller role for societal organisations organisations Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 14. But do they? MEPs often do not decide themselves Transnational parties in the EP Fraction discipline in most parties Policy areas are often covered by MEPs should do what they promise • But do they? others MEPs often do not decide themselves DiversityEP these parties is in • Transnational parties in the • Fraction discipline in most parties increasing • Policy areas are often covered by others • Diversity in these parties is increasing MEPs trust their to trust their colleagues • MEPs need toneed colleagues Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 15. But do they? Compromise is everywhere National programs are only the input in the process Compromise within transnational parties MEPs should do what they promise Everyday understanding of the EP Compromise between transnational • But do they? MEPs are elected representatives of the people What does this mean? parties Compromise is everywhere • National Three issues programs are only the input in the process Compromise between European • Compromise within transnational citizens MEPs should know the preferences of parties • Compromise between promise MEPs should do what they transnational parties institutions • Compromise between what they have done MEPs should communicate European institutions Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 16. MEPs should do what they promise But do they? MEPs favour more Europe The EP is pro-European The EP wants more power Critical voices disappear in this MEPs should do what they promise • But do they? process MEPs favour more Europe • The EP is pro-European • The EP wants more power • Critical voices disappear in this process Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 17. they have done But do they? Traditional media do not cover the EP Journalists are interested during Council meetings Attention for work of the EP is MEPs should communicate what they have done • But do they? sparse Traditional media do not cover the EP In the interested during Council meetings • Journalists are past, even EP-elections were • Attention for work of the EP is sparse • In the past, even EP-electionsignored were ignored Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 18. they have done But do they? Social media are not an alternative Only an information source for interested citizens Audience is small compared to MEPs should communicate what they have done traditional media • But do they? PR-information instead of Social media are not an alternative • Only an information source for interested citizens independent journalism • Audience is small compared to traditional media • PR-information instead of independent journalism Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 19. MEPs should communicate what they have done But do they? Explanation is not justification MEPs are active in all kinds of public meetings MEPs explainthey have value of the EU the done MEPs should communicate what • But do they? and the EP Explanation is not justification MEPs do not justify their actions • MEPs are active in all kinds of public meetings • MEPs explain the value of the EU and the EP • MEPs do not justify their actions Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 20. practice The EP has more powers than ever before In theory, the EP represents the people of the EU Are citizens able to change European policies? In practice practice • Huge gap between theory and • The EP has more powers than ever before MEPs do not know the preferences • In theory, the EP represents the people of the EU of citizens In practice • MEPs do not know the preferences of citizens The of MEPs is not MEPs • The workwork of transparent is not transparent • No communication about what MEPs did No communication about what Utrecht University MEPs did www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 21. What to do? What to do? Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 22. Vote for a Europhile party This is what most citizens already do This will not change anything Parties such as CDA, PvdA, D66, VVD, GroenLinks Vote for a Europhile party • This is what most citizens already do • This will not change anything • Parties such as CDA, PvdA, D66, VVD, GroenLinks Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 23. Vote for a Eurosceptic party This has become more popular But it will not change anything either Parties such as PVV, SGP or PvdD Vote for a Eurosceptic party • This has become more popular • But it will not change anything either • Parties such as PVV, SGP or PvdD Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 24. Vote for the party of your national preference This gives a general direction to MEPs Vote for the party of your national preference • This gives a general direction to MEPs Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 25. Vote for policy proposals from a political program These will be the input for negotiations No chance that these proposals will be really executed Gives some direction to the work of MEPs Vote for policy proposals from a political program • These will be the input for negotiations • No chance that these proposals will be really executed • Gives some direction to the work of MEPs Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl
  • 26. Do not vote Preferred option of the majority More discussion about legitimacy of the EU Do not vote • Preferred option of the majority • More discussion about legitimacy of the EU Utrecht University www.chrisaalberts.nl