Localising Europe

Policy Briefing

Citizens' Europe

Picture of Dorthe Nielsen
Dorthe Nielsen

Executive Director at EUROCITIES

Picture of Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Director of Insights at Friends of Europe

Picture of Verity Hubbard
Verity Hubbard

Programme Assistant at Friends of Europe

How can the EU feel more relevant to its citizens? Friends of Europe and EUROCITIES have identified how to make this happen. The truth is cities and their citizens have far too little say in EU decisions. This needs to change.

Friends of Europe’s citizens survey released in 2019 highlights that 60% of people living in Europe feel it would make no difference if the EU were no longer here. The recent European election turnout and results have given us a window of opportunity to address this. The only way for the EU to become relevant and perceived to be in touch with the lives of citizens is to adopt a more bottom-up approach to policy and decision making.

Doing citizen engagement as it has always been done with the same mechanisms will not achieve this outcome. How this might happen is the subject of this paper. We propose the development of a new European Localism that puts people and place at the heart of the EU’s policy thinking, development and decision making.

The ideas set out here predate the EU’s announcement of the Future of Europe conference. In this we provide fresh thinking and an approach to close the trust gap between citizens and the EU.

How can a new European Localism be applied to the policymaking machinery of the EU to influence and shape the work of the Conference on the Future of Europe? We suggest that this requires a different mindset that regards localities and citizens as assets in solving many of Europe’s challenges and to adopt a more inclusive form of policymaking to fit the circumstances of people and communities across Europe in their varying contexts. It is about reinforcing and underpinning what is currently available in the ecology of the EU. Crucially we point to the need to leverage the specific knowledge and engagement of cities, citizens and mayors in this ecology.

This is a rather grand project. We not only need to reconnect the EU to its citizens- but also to contribute to aligning the current trajectory of the future of the EU to the kind of EU we want.

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