It is difficult to say how effective the EU relates to its citizens. The European Union has many institutions, which deals with relations to its citizens. These include the Parliament, the European Council, the Commission and the European Court of Justice. Looking at a few of these separately and scrutinising the functions of the selected institutions will be essential in discovering how successfully the EU relates to its citizens.
3European integration and construction has been regarded by many of us, especially in Britain and Denmark, a totally remote and abstract image, we do not display much interest in it. (as shown by voting in the European Parliament) .4 In other words, the European Community is seen as a commercial association with technocracy and technocrats, not offering any specific benefits to daily life and not contributing any protection to fundamental rights and aspirations for freedom, democracy and social justice.
5The ultimate aim of all these European institutions are to achieve, “a union of the peoples comprised in it that ensures peace and civil and human progress”. After fifty years of European integration, which has made Europe a great prosperous region, the citizens have enjoyed the benefits without even knowing it or how significant Europe actually is. 6 “Community Machinery” ; people have much wider choices and opportunities , as a result their rights are better protected and the overall standard of living has improved in Europe.
For a clearer picture of this reality it is vital to describe a few of the institutions involved in the areas of responsibility in relating with its citizens.
6 The European Parliament (EP),created in 1962, is the most democratic and authentic institution, being elected by direct universal suffrage by the citizens of Europe. The European Parliament relates to citizens very effectively by means of democracy and voting, thus giving the people a voice in Europe. There are currently 620 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) elected every five years by a proportional representation electoral system (% of votes = % of seats). There are MEPs from each of the 15 member states.
The element that hinders the Parliament from relating to its citizens as effective as it should is the low turnouts at elections. 7 There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, European elections do not offer any prospect of major changes in, governments, policies, reputations and fail to stimulate any interest or political excitement. Secondly, “European” issues fail to make any impact at all and election campaigns have little cohesion or co-ordination. Finally, there is not much media interest and everything seems to be played down to a “half-hearted” manner in the elections, they seem to be seen as nowhere as important as national elections.
8The United Kingdom has displayed the lowest of all turnouts in Europe at only 36% in 1994! Belgium and Luxembourg have had the highest turnouts at over 90% voting in 1994.
These elements make it difficult for the EU to relate to its citizens.
9 The European Court Of Justice has the fundamental task in ensuring all 15 member states are in total compliance with the EU law and all their applications. It has jurisdiction for the settlement of disputes between the member states. The Court deals with the human rights that are seen to be too “sensitive” for national courts to give a judgement. The European Court of Justice may also deal with the movement of European citizens and their freedoms. This institution tries hard to communicate its laws to all member states and their citizens in aspects like protecting the environment against further damage from pollution and global warming.