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More transparency needed for real European democracy

Jo Leinen, Member of the European Parliament, at the 9th Brussels Wednesday Social

On 11 April 2018, Jo Leinen discussed with our guests how to improve the current electoral system in the EU to create a real "European" democracy through more transparent and visible elections supported by bottom-up citizen engagement.

The 9th Brussels Wednesday Social hosted by METRO AG  in cooperation with European Movement International (EMI) and EuroCommerce was attended by somewhat 170 guests from politics, business and civil society.

A Summary of the Evening

"Did you know that there are 24 fewer democracies in the world now than in 2000?"

Jo Leinen started his speech by emphasizing the fundamental need to reconnect with European citizens and the urgency to defend, nurture and strengthen democratic and liberal values. The current political landscape is confusing and democracy is under pressure within the EU, but also from elsewhere. Against this background, we should not miss any opportunity to communicate the value of the European Union in the 21st century and to engage with citizens, instead of imposing top-down solutions.

However, the "European" component of the EU elections is minimal. Mr Leinen, who was the European Parliament's rapporteur for the EU Electoral Reform, stressed that the current identity crisis in the EU can only be solved by more transparent and visible elections with higher involvement from the electorate. "I want to see thousands of debates across Europe, discussing the direction our Union should take and informing the decisions policy-makers need to take to address the challenges of our times", said Jo Leinen.

But for that, we also need a more European electoral system. The discussion with the audience addressed the European constituency and European citizenship as well as transnational lists and their risks and benefits. Mr Leinen pointed out that he felt disappointed when a majority of MEPs voted against transnational lists, as proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Transnational lists would make European parties' candidates electable in all Member States, complementing the "Spitzenkandidaten" initiative, explained Jo Leinen. The candidates should be known at least 3 months before the elections, including those who will run for the office of President of the European Commission. Elections would become more transparent, as candidates will be visible and known beforehand by the electorate, instead of being chosen by EU leaders behind "closed doors".

In her closing remarks, Maria Heider, Director EU Affairs at METRO AG Corporate Communications and Public Policy, emphasized the importance of democracy for businesses, but also the crucial role that companies and other democratic stakeholders play in supporting and improving the democratic system of the European Union.

The evening concluded with lively conversations between our guests over the culinary delights offered by METRO Cash & Carry Belgium.

The Keynote Speech

Clara Salarich-Ortega

Information about the author

Clara Salarich-Ortega works as Manager EU Affairs in the Representative Office of METRO AG in Brussels clara.salarich@metro.de