As Europe’s financial crises bed down into economic malaise, a portion of attention turns from fixing the continent’s financial and regulatory systems to reforming its systems of governance.
Faith in politics in Europe is at a historic low. Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU agency devoted to improving living and working conditions, has charted an average 12% decline in people’s level of trust in their political institutions over a two-year period to September 2009. Ireland was one of the worst-affected countries. One can only imagine how that decline has accelerated in the months since.
But there are now a few signs that the economic trauma inflicted on citizens has begun to percolate upwards and to induce change in national institutions. Governing elites that have to varying degrees been discredited now seek to augment parliamentary politics with more direct, deliberative and participative forms of democracy.