The Brussels establishment is rejecting attempts to make it more transparent and accountable to voters.
The European Union has had a democratic legitimacy problem for years: Its governing bodies — with the exception of those that consist of national leaders and ministers — are neither particularly responsive nor accountable to ordinary European voters. And, as the latest failed attempt to reform them has shown, they like it this way, for all the rhetoric about the need to overcome the democratic deficit.
Voters have influence on the EU via two channels. One is electing national leaders, who, through the EU Council, set general policy guidelines for the bloc. The leaders also pick ministers who collectively serve as co-legislators with the European Parliament. Directly electing the 751 members of this parliament is the other channel of influence. But few ordinary voters understand what the parliament is about — something that has helped drive election turnout down to 43 percent in the last two elections from a respectable 62 percent in 1979, when the EU’s predecessor organization was much smaller. Once in Brussels, legislators from national parties form into transnational factions with unfamiliar names and leaders; confusingly, they also can’t propose laws — they have to ask the European Commission, the closest the EU has to a government, to introduce legislation. Most parliament members, for example, are opposed to daylight savings time, but they could only vote
on Thursday to ask the commission to conduct a “thorough assessment” of whether it should continue.