The European Union is a continually changing peace project in Europe. As it has out grown its original purpose of preventing war between France and Germany, the Union has had to discover and adapt to its new purpose.
Habermas argues, as part of his critical theory view, that how the EU evolves is by increasing citizen participation within the EU because the people’s involvement increases the legitimacy of the state’s authority.
In 2007 the European Union signed the Lisbon Treaty after realizing that voter participation was very low and was continuing to decrease. Many citizens felt that the EU was a distant, irrelevant government that tried to dictate rules from Brussels. The Lisbon Treaty (which came into affect in 2009) would increase democratic principles in the EU and allow greater opportunity for participation. Some examples would be the Citizen Initiative (1 million EU citizens sign a petition for proposing a law to the Commission), increasing Parliament’s powers, having laws passed by national parliaments, etc.
The MEPs and Commissioners knew that the EU would lose relevance and authority if the citizens did not feel connected to their government at the national and supranational levels. Voter participation was 43% in the 2009 election. So, how is the government to reflect the people when less than half of the EU population is politically active? The hopes of the increase in democratic participation with the passing of the Lisbon Treaty would give the institution more respect as it would be reflecting the citizens wants better.
However, 2014 Parliamentary Election (the first elections since the Lisbon Treaty came into force) voter turnout was only 42.54% with some newer MS with only 13% turnout like Slovakia. With these results did the Lisbon Treaty fail in its job to involve citizens or are they just slow to come around to these big changes?