There is plenty of “democracy” in the EU’s institutions, if you look: from direct elections to the EP, to national government representation in the Council of Ministers, and the option of direct participation by citizens in agenda setting via the ECI.
The problem is that the institutions are not visibly delivering democratic accountability (or effective governance).
How could citizen participation solve the problem?
To start with, I think it has to be acknowledged that direct democracy at the EU level is not an option – only a small minority of citizens will ever engage with single issues and the process is too open to manipulation.
On the other hand, for various reasons, the Commission has failed to make the ECI an effective process.
My proposals would be then: first simplify the ECI process and requirements by for example removing the checks on ECIs which are“manifestly against the values of the Union”, and allow ECIs to propose changes to Treaties.
Second, create a single, secure, auditable EU-wide system open to all who wish to run an ECI which captures and encrypts minimal data on the signatories.
Finally: let the parliament be responsible for the ECI process, not the Commission. Successful ECI proposals would be debated on the floor of the Parliament, and if accepted, require an administrative response from the Commission, or be adapted into a proposed EU law.
This perhaps would go some way to creating a pan-EU polity and to strengthen the most democratic institution of the EU.