This contribution analyses all pertinent participatory instruments available to EU citizens and investigates how meaningful these instruments are in influencing EU policy and decision-making. It finds that most forms of participation are not suitable for ‘ordinary’ citizens, but instead for organised interest and expert communities. The Commission supports and promotes top-down instruments more than bottom-up tools, thereby putting greater importance on instruments to improve policy outcomes than on allowing citizens to make their voices heard. Citizens are in fact unable to challenge the decision-making of the political elite, as their input is almost entirely limited to the consultative phase of policymaking. This leads to the conclusion that the EU continues to be legitimised through output as opposed to input.
This paper is a chapter from the book Direct Democracy in the EU: The Myth of a Citizens’ Union, which will be published with Rowman & Littlefield International in January 2019, as part of the “Towards a Citizens’ Union” (2CU) project of the European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN), co-funded by the Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Programme of the European Commission.
Sophia Russack is a Researcher at CEPS.