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Can the European parliament ever break out of the cycle of failing public interests and legitimacy?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Analyzing what can be done to increase and strengthen the legitimacy of the European Parliament
    1. The European Community's aim
    2. The European Parliament's duties
    3. The Brussels Treaty of the 22nd of January 1975
  3. National parliaments: Controling over their governments' Community activities
  4. The transfer of responsibilities
  5. The levels of turnout in elections for the European Parliament
  6. The on-going processes of enlargement and constitutional reform in the EU
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

In one of his speeches, Pat Cox, the President of the European Parliament said ?Turnout across Europe [in 1999] was higher than in the last US Presidential Elections, and I do not hear people questioning the legitimacy of the presidency of the United States.'. Since 1979, indeed, the European Parliament has been the only pan-European, directly elected body. Its powers have increased with successive decisions of the European Court of Justice and amendments to the treaties that define the political life of the European Union. However, paradoxically, turnouts in European elections are worryingly low and democracy seems to be in trouble, considering the lack of public interest for the European Assembly. Democratic deficit concerning the European Parliament can be defined through three main elements. The first point is the feeling of a lack of representation by this institution since the Parliament seems to have less power than the Commission and the Council whereas it is the only body to be elected. Secondly, people are not aware of what happens within the European Parliament, nor do they know much about its competence.

[...] Consequently, in order for it to break out of the cycle of failing public interest and legitimacy, the European Parliament must continue to cooperate with national governments that are often eager to debate on European affairs. The European Parliament should not suffer from a politic deficit. If their governments begin to have close relations with a European institution, people might get more interested in the role of the European Parliament. But political cooperation cannot solve the problem of the so- called European identity. [...]

[...] The European Parliament definitely suffers from a lack of accountability. Moreover, since the Brussels Treaty of the 22nd of January 1975, the European Parliament has a budgetary power. It can propose a modification of the compulsory expenditures to the Council and is able to adopt amendments concerning the non-obligatory expenditures. Finally, after a complex procedure of conciliation between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the European Assembly is the only institution able to adopt or reject the budget. At last, the European Parliament was progressively given a power of control. [...]

[...] The eurosceptic Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde affirms that he does not ?believe in the existence of a European people' since ?people are still national in their outlook'. There are not even real European political parties. People go to vote for their national political parties. European political blocs within the Parliament should be able to become strong enough to select candidates and run campaigns independently of their sister parties at national levels. But the main issue is to create a real European identity. Why having a supra-national parliament if people do not feel linked by a common identity? [...]

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