My name is Daniel and I am 26-year old European Studies master student from Hanover, Germany. I consider myself as pro-European but EU-critical.
To begin with, I would like to remind you of something which disappeared in the abyss of public inattention during the summer break. After all, the World Cup did not only fill the FIFA’s wallet (and not that of ordinary Brazilians), it also distracted people from everything else. So it was the best time to release some uncomfortable news. Did not many politicians and EU officials applaud (themselves) that the recent EU elections had reversed the decline of voter turnout? Actually, this happens to be untrue. As official statistics recently published by the European Parliament show: the turnout was 42.54 percent in 2014 compared to 43 in 2009 (http://www.results-elections2014.eu/en/turnout.html). In only six countries the turnout increased significantly (more than five percent) in Germany, Sweden, Lithuania, Romania, Croatia and Greece. In the other countries it stabilised, but mostly declined.
The ongoing decline in votes has many reasons, which differ from country to country and region to region. But one conclusion everyone can agree on is that citizens generally feel more and more disconnected from the European Union. One symptom of this disconnection is the historic low turnout; another is the rising popularity of ‘protest parties’. Therefore, blocking the CETA/TTIP European Citizen Initiative (ECI: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/trade-industry/commission-opposes-european-citizens-initiative-against-ttip-308406) is one of the worst signals the Commission could have sent after the summer break. In fact, it is a slap in all citizens’ faces. Even if the justification for this procedure is technical (a trade agreement is not a legislative act) and may be legally correct, the Commission’s decision nevertheless looks very bureaucratic and politically narrow-minded. Have they forgotten the heated debates about the EU’s democratic deficit? It was this debate which led to the creation of the ECI which was originally put into place in order to reduce the gap between the EU institutions and the citizens and to give citizens an instrument to express their concerns. And many people seem concerned about the backdoor negotiations on TTIP/CETA.
I hope European citizens will not hang their heads and resign, but — on the contrary – engage even more to stop undemocratic processes like the TTIP/CETA negotiations and mobilise to create enough pressure on the Commission to re-think its rejection of the ECI and to listen to European citizens more carefully.
Daniel Lüchow is a guest on this blog.