Two months ago, the European Council bypassed the proposed candidates the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had put forward before the European elections. As a result of this German politician, Ursula von der Leyen was nominated as the new head of the Commission. 

According to a poll by German broadcaster ARD, 56% said they did not condone the appointment of the Ursula von der Leyen. The Independent reports that “another recent poll in Der Spiegel magazine found that she was the second most unpopular cabinet minister in Germany”. As a result of this, the European Union’s democratic nature has come under scrutiny. Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, “said the decision by leaders to reject all the candidates for European Commission president was ‘not the Europe I imagined’. Jean-Claude Juncker, who Von der Leye is appointed to replace, said that the process “was not very transparent”. 

To many people, the EU is an impersonal and impenetrable bureaucracy that affects the lives of citizens without many opportunities for input by those citizens. However, according to the Guardian, “unlike the United Nations or the World Trade Organisation, only democracies can join the European Union. In theory, EU member states that slide back on democratic standards can be sanctioned, although this is easier said than done.” 

Saying that a state or institution is undemocratic almost immediately implies a negative judgement, However, when a state or institution is underpinned by democracy it is seen as something positive. Having been created in 1979, The European Parliament was given the power to approve or reject EU legislation, for the purpose of making the European Union more democratic, but what it really needs, as an institution is accountability and transparency.

Today, journalists, remainers and brexiteers and politically apathetic citizens all share one thing in common – we’re all tired of hearing about the EU and Brexit on every screen we possess. During this time, the democratic integrity of the European Union is the last thing on people’s minds – more relevantly, the British public just want to know what in the world is going on. The UK has been in limbo for a long time with regards to its relationship with the European Union. An entire Prime Minister has come and gone and the only thing we’re aware of is how much still needs to be done and what we’re yet to achieve.

This is not to knock the idea that the European Union does need to be more democratic. The most effective, quick routed way to do this is to ensure that at least most people appointed in the European Council are directly elected by the relevant electorate. Having a ‘general election’ for the head of the European Commission would ultimately compel European Parties to be more transparent about what goes on within the Union. Brexiteer Kate Hoey claimed “the European Union has pushed Remainers into agreeing with Brexit because of the selection process to pick the new leader of the European Commission”. Speaking to Labour Leave, Ms Hoey said: “It’s interesting that very little has been tweeted by the Remain campaign, by the People’s Vote campaign about all of this”.

We’re tired of Brexit news. We appreciate any effort to strengthen institutional democracy, but what we need is a desperate increase in transparency and accountability. Any efforts to strengthen democracy without transparency will lead to increased political participation by an electorate with zero understanding.