“We see a danger mounting on our institutions”

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Weakened or even threatened in the world, democracy seems entrenched in a Europe where the population still believes in it, but very strongly questions its model. At a time when the thirst for direct democracy is colliding with the traditional relays of representation, at a time when nationalisms are reappearing under new guises, only a little more than half of Europeans consider that this mode of government works correctly, national and European scale.

“Democratic frustration”

Emmanuel Rivière, director of international studies at Kantar Public, the institute that carries out the Eurobarometers, talks about “democratic frustration” : the French are 61% to find that the term “democratic” describes the European Union well, but only 41% believe that their voice counts.

By the European elections of 2024, “there is a lot of work to be done to explain what Europe is doing. Very often, citizens are not aware of the immense power of the European Parliament”believes Laurence Boone, Secretary of State for Europe, who takes as an example the energy transition framed by MEPs.

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The vast investigation for corruption in the European Parliament in connection with Qatar and Morocco does not help matters. “It’s still a dirty blow to European democracy, it inevitably casts suspicion”, estimated the minister, for whom the case “pushes us to question the ethics of European institutions”.

Laurence Boone proposes four axes of reform: prohibit the accumulation of functions, so that MEPs “are devoted to the exercise of their mandate” ; strengthen the register of appointments of elected officials with lobbies; impose the declaration of interests and assets, as in France; finally, to oblige to refuse gifts beyond a certain amount.

“Defective Institutions”

At the same time, Europe is as if plagued from within by authoritarian temptations, the excesses observed in Poland or Hungary presenting the most obvious symptoms, to the detriment, in particular, of the independence of justice. “For several years, we have seen a danger mounting on our institutions”, worries Laurence Boone. The European Union has engaged in a standoff to protect the rule of law, with for the first time the suspension of European funds to offenders.

The Secretary of State believes in their effectiveness, as well as in publicly denouncing states that fail to respect the rule of law. “When you are singled out for your deficient institutions, it is still terrible for any government, she assures. It is above all the publicity it generates, how others look at you, what it says about your elections, which lead these countries to move. »

Compliance with the Copenhagen criteria on the major political values ​​of the EU remains a sine qua non condition for joining the European club. They therefore impose themselves on applicants for membership, whether they come from the Western Balkans, Moldova or Ukraine. But Laurence Boone calls for “change the membership process” to help applicants align more quickly with democratic standards: “If we make them wait ten, fifteen or twenty years, they will despair! »

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