EU citizens want more justice and participation

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Prof Bernd Schlipphak and Prof Oliver Treib (from left) © IfPol - Matthias Freis

Prof Bernd Schlipphak and Prof Oliver Treib (from left) © IfPol - Matthias Freise

What are European citizens’ ideal visions of the European Union (EU)- According to an international study undertaken by political scientists from the University of Münster, people across all countries studied primarily support more participation and justice. "The public acceptance of laws issued by the EU increases if people have more say in decision-making, if they receive more information about the decision-making process, and if the outcome benefits all member states equally," Bernd Schlipphak, a political science professor from the University of Münster’s Institute of Political Science, explains. Together with his colleague, professor Oliver Treib, he surveyed a total of 12,000 citizens in a selection of six EU member states (Germany, France, Poland, Hungary, Denmark and Spain). In the survey, respondents were confronted with a variety of configurations of the EU in order to find out what people’s ideal EU looked like.

According to Oliver Treib, the research team discovered some surprising commonalities among European citizens. "Although respondents had different views on which policy issues the EU should primarily tackle, people across all countries agreed that the EU should concentrate on addressing global challenges such as climate change, migration, security and international trade."

People were significantly more divided over the balance of powers between the EU and its member states. "In all countries we studied, we found two opposing groups with completely different views on international politics," Treib explains. "One group rejects international cooperation altogether and is therefore against transferring more decision-making powers to the European level," Bernd Schlipphak adds. "The other group, by contrast, holds diametrically opposed views: for them, more international cooperation - and, in consequence, more EU powers - is both necessary and desirable." Any reform of the current balance of powers within the EU would therefore run counter to the desires of one or the other group. According to the study’s authors, such reforms would further exacerbate what has already become an increasingly fierce divide between these two groups.

Publications A first summary of the results of the study was published online as a peer-reviewed Working Report of the University of Münster’s RECONNECT team - which, in addition to Bernd Schlipphak and Oliver Treib, also comprises Constantin Schäfer, Dana Atzpodien and Paul Meiners. The report can be found at https://reconnect-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/D9.2.pdf. Two further articles reporting project results are currently under review with international journals.

The University of Münster’s RECONNECT team has produced an animated video in English and German which seeks to present the study’s results in an easy-to-understand way. The video can be accessed on the project website at go.wwu.de/6x1fh.

The RECONNECT project RECONNECT is a four-year multi-disciplinary research project funded by the EU’s "Horizon 2020" framework programme. The project brings together researchers from 18 partner institutions to study the EU’s democratic deficit and citizens’ loss of trust in the EU. The aim of the project is to analyse democracy and the rule of law and to strengthen the legitimacy of the EU by means of appropriate reforms. The project team at the University of Münster’s Institute of Political Science focuses on describing and understanding citizens’ ideal visions of the EU.

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