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Opinion EU has choice between referendum and reform

Greece was one of the countries where voters had the final say on some aspect of relations with the EU in 2015 


More transparency and increased citizen participation is needed to help restore confidence in the European Union’s decision-making procedures, easing the pressure for public ballots, says Stefan Lehne from the independent think tank Carnegie Europe.

Since the creation of the EU in the 1950s up until the end of December 2015, a total of 55 public ballots have been held in various European countries, including Switzerland, on integration into the multi-nation bloc.

The first ballot box decision dates back to 1972 in France. Voters in Denmark were the latest to have the final say on closer relations with Brussels. They threw out a government proposal to extend judicial cooperation with the EU a month ago.

Lehneexternal link, a former Austrian diplomat and special envoy for the EU in the Balkans, argues that EU leaders will face increasing populist opposition at the ballot box if they refuse to consider reforms.

Information about the EU decision-making processes should be made more accessible and citizen-friendly over the internet, Lehne says. EU institutions could try to involve civil society more closely in existing consultation procedures.

He also calls for an improved system of cooperation between the EU and national parliaments as well as regional and municipal authorities.

His paper was first published by the Brussels-based foreign policy centre Carnegie Europeexternal link where he has worked as a visiting scholar. The text also appeared on the direct democracy online platform People2Powerexternal link.

It can be downloaded hereexternal link.

The views expressed in the above mentioned article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Opinion series publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.

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Urs Geiser,

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