Reconnecting Europe with its Citizens - the Role of Political Foundations

Taking a proper look at Europe reveals a gap between its citizens and the institutions; the two founding elements of the integration process stand apart from one another. Citizens continue to feel that European and national decision-makers are unable to meet their expectations: decisions taken at national level are disconnected from their needs, and there is a lack of trust in European institutions. A new modus vivendi between citizens and the EU is therefore needed, in order to tackle today’s challenges and re-engage Europeans with their project.
This new European vision is crucial, perhaps more so than ever before in its young history. However, at this critical, defining moment, internal divisions seem to be challenging its core existence. Recent developments suggest that the very definition and identity of the EU and its relations with member states and citizens are becoming hot topical issues. The rise in votes for Eurosceptic and the record low turnout during elections for the European Parliament stand as stark warnings. If Europe is to play a role in the future, it will have to find a way to inspire, include and re-engage its citizens, including anti-European groups, as they are in a position to propose concrete measures in order to counteract the process of widening the gap.
In this context, political foundations have an important role as a link between citizens and the European Union decision-makers. They contribute to the formation of a plurality of considered public opinions and ensure that relevant issues, required information, and appropriate contributions are mobilised, thus balancing political, economic, and media power through the facilitation of social power. Moreover, they reintroduce discourse in an environment that is increasingly personal and commoditised. By their very nature, political foundations politicise the way the world appears to citizens by bringing in public discourse and relating this to a framework of political tools of analysis.
This policy paper aims to provide a joint understanding of active European citizenship and some of its challenges, highlighting, apart from political foundations, also the role of education and social media. The list of recommendations drawn up at the end of the paper summarises the ideas and reflections elaborated within the European Network of Political Foundations (ENoP).

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