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CEPS-SWP High-Level Group on bolstering EU Democracy

The EU has become increasingly democratic – not only with the introduction of direct elections to the European Parliament (EP) in 1976, but with every Treaty reform since Maastricht new sources of democratic legitimacy have been introduced. The EP has been continuously strengthened and tied more closely to the European Commission to make the EU’s main executive institution more accountable; national parliaments have been more involved, particularly over the safeguarding of the subsidiarity principle; and participatory democratic instruments have been more recently introduced, such as the European Citizen’s Initiative.

However, all this did not do away with the notion of the EU’s democratic deficit and citizens’ demands for democratically legitimate government and decision-making processes. According to the latest Eurobarometer poll, less than half of EU citizens think that their voice counts and do not consider it highly important to vote in EP elections.

This thus leads to a crucial question – what is the real issue with EU democracy and how can we solve it?

While this debate is anything but new, it really is necessary to rethink EU democracy now – not only has the Conference on the Future of Europe injected fresh momentum into the debate on EU democracy but a possible new round of EU enlargement over the next few years requires a genuine attempt to ‘put the house in order’.

Most importantly, we are only one year away from the next EP elections, a critical moment for citizens and voters to express their stance on democracy and for a public discussion on how to strengthen the EU’s democratic legitimacy and empower citizens.

Against this backdrop, SWP Berlin and CEPS are joining forces to set up a High-Level Group on bolstering EU democracy:

Mission: To develop and disseminate policy recommendations to strengthen EU democracy, to be published within a dedicated report in September 2023.

Format: An expert group composed of well-known academic and authoritative practitioners (politicians, diplomats, advisors). The group reflects the EU’s political, geographical and institutional diversity. It is a cross-party project and includes participants from as many Member States as possible.

Chair: Kalypso Nicolaidis, EUI

Co-Rapporteurs: Sophia Russack (CEPS) and Nicolai von Ondarza (SWP)


  • Jan Philipp Albrecht, Co-President, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
  • Vladimír Bilcik, Member of the European Parliament, European People’s Party
  • Karolina Boronska-Hryniewiecka, Assistant Professor University of Wroclaw and Visiting Fellow at the Université Paris Sorbonne
  • Aleš Chmelar, Permanent Representative to the OECD of the Czech Republic; former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for European affairs and State Secretary for European Affairs
  • Lolita Cigane, former Chair of the European Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Latvia
  • Simonetta Cook, Advisor, Cabinet of the President of the European Council
  • Richard Corbett, Former Member of the European Parliament, S&D Group
  • Ben Crum, Professor of Political Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Member of the European Parliament, Greens–European Free Alliance
  • Harlem Desír, Former French Minister of State for European Affairs
  • Carl Dolan, Senior Adviser, European Ombudsman
  • Daniel Freund, Member of the European Parliament, Greens–European Free Alliance
  • Hussein Kassim, Professor of Politics, University of East Anglia
  • Brigid Laffan, Emeritus Professor, EUI
  • Paula Oliver Llorente, CEPS Young Thinker
  • Cecila Malmström, Former European Commissioner for Trade and former European Commissioner Home Affairs; former Minister for European Union Affairs
  • Christine Neuhold, Professor of EU Democratic Governance and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University
  • Eva-Maria Poptcheva, Member of the European Parliament, Renew Europe Group
  • Arnoldas Pranckevicius, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the European Union
  • René Repasi, Member of the European Parliament, S&D Group, Professor of Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Anthony Teasdale, Former Director General, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)
  • Michiel van Hulten, Director, Transparency International EU
  • Sophie in’t Veld, Member of the European Parliament, Renew Europe Group
  • Catherine de Vries, Professor of Political Science, Bocconi University


May 2023 – Autumn 2023



With support of:

Heinrich Böll Foundation and Friedrich Naumann Foundation