Democracy Conversations #2 - Beyond the elections: What's next for EU democracy?

Are elections still enough to keep European democracy running? As the next European elections of 2024 approach, the question is especially important. The EU is too complex and too distant. European elections often turn into 27 national election campaigns. In addition, citizens’ trust in mainstream politics is decreasing. How could we defend and deepen our democracy under such conditions, and can more citizen participation be the solution? 

Contact Person:

Foto Dominik Hierlemann
Dr. Dominik Hierlemann
Senior Advisor
Foto Andrey Demidov
Dr. Andrey Demidov
Project Manager


Jessika Roswall, the Swedish Minister for the EU Affairs, Alin Mituta, the MEP (Renew Europe Group), Corina Stratulat from European Policy Centre and Dominik Hierlemann, Senior Advisor in the "Democracy and Social Cohesion" programme discussed these questions in the second edition of Democracy Conversations, an online interactive event organised by the EU Democracy Reform Observatory.

EU Democracy Observatory is a joint initiative between European Policy Centre and Bertelsmann Stiftung. Its main aim is to foster the debate on modernising European democracy via interactive online Democracy Conversations, analysis, and research on the topics most pressing for European democracy: legitimate EU governance, EU reform and the role of citizen participation in the EU.

Improving how our representative democracy works is one way to go, claimed the Minister. Higher voter turnout and bigger European identity are safeguards for our democracies, both at home and at the EU level. However, for that, we need to talk and campaign more on the EU issues nationally and political parties at home need to do a better job anchoring EU topics with European citizens. 

Modern democracy, however, has evolved. Citizens want to engage differently and in a more direct way, emphasised MEP Alin Mituta. His report 'Parliamentarism, Citizenship, and Democracy,' recently approved by the European Parliament, calls for annual European Agoras on strategic EU priorities and optimisation of the existing EU participatory instruments. The report has taken up several proposals on further development of citizen participation elaborated by the Bertelsmann Stiftung team of “New democracy” project.

Moreover, participatory democracy is not there to replace representative, but to complement it, stated Corina Stratulat and Dominik Hierlemann. And it is clear: the debate on citizen participation in the EU has already noticeably evolved. The EU institutions see that participation instruments work and can deliver. However, the instruments are still fragmented. Not only should they be better institutionalised, but they also need to be embedded in a common understanding on how exactly they complement representative democracy.   

Participatory democracy is the reality for European democracy alongside elections. It is time to take it politically more seriously. When the quality and safety of our democracy is at stake, it is hardly about the monopoly of defining what kind of democracy works but doing all we can to master democracy and showing the courage to improve it.