EU: Looking for values

The EU is trying to become more popular in the eyes of European citizens but has chosen the wrong tack, says Professor Teija Tiilikainen, an expert in European politics and a columnist of the news weekly Suomen Kuvalehti (10 August 2001). She criticises the Commission's obsession with EU institutions.

"Citizens don't hook onto institutions but values and ideologies. Political institutions are seen as legitimate if people believe that they promote values which are deemed to be important. Institutions must find a place in people's world of values."

Examining the EU White Paper on European Governance, Tiilikainen notes that the Commission is concerned that citizens don't have a clear view about what the Union does or how its spheres of competence are defined. The Commission believes that if this fuzziness is eliminated, people will find the Union more credible.

The Commission concentrates on the decision-making apparatus. i.e. relations between itself, the European Council — which consists of heads of states — and the Council of Ministers (Council of the European Union). The Commission wants to subjugate the system under its own tutelage, Tiilikainen suspects. It wants the European Parliament to monitor its executive powers. A further idea in making the system clearer is to have a federal-type decision-making apparatus. This supposedly would make it clearer to citizens what various institutions are doing.

Tiilikainen seems to doubt that any of this will inspire citizens to be more enthusiastic about the European Union. She recommends another tack.

"One would hope that the next White Paper will cover European politics, i.e. how policies are being made and who are the people in key positions when political initiatives are put forward and public debate is being encouraged.

"The ball is in the court of political parties and political movements of civil society. They must help to bring an open political debate into the Union."

Tiilikainen also writes that the Commission should scrutinise its own attitudes in order to allow a stronger democratic influence in its work.


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