EU leaders warned public has lost trust in Brussels – ‘Hopelessly detached from reality!’

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Political scientist Reneta Shipkova from the Institute for European Studies warned EU chiefs had failed to communicate with people living across the bloc’s member states and had paid a heavy price as a result. Dr Shipkova said a string of EU failures culminating in Brexit last December could be blamed on hamfisted attempts to connect with its citizens.

Many Europeans are left with the impression that the EU lacks purpose

Dr Reneta Shipkova

She said: “The EU has been accused of being an elitist project – a self-serving entity hopelessly detached from reality.

“As the years roll by, more and more citizens have come to feel that Brussels, the EU polity, its institutions, and its elites are simply not serving their interests.

“Many Europeans are left with the impression that the EU lacks purpose, capacity for rapid response, and capability to deal with local, European or global challenges.”

She said Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the EU followed by Donald Trump’s election in the USA sparked a newfound momentum for the European project but that any possible renaissance has not been converted into policies and actions.

She said: “Restoring citizens’ confidence and trust in the EU project is crucial.

“If Brussels is to avoid further alienation of the citizens it serves, it needs to communicate its accomplishments, worth, and raison d’être more effectively.

“It should make a convincing case for all the good it does both internally and on the world stage.”

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Dr Shipkova said trust in the Brussels leadership would continue to fall unless action was taken.

She said: “A revolutionary change in approach and a substantial dose of political imagination is required to match today’s unpredictable geopolitical context – an environment with multiple challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, the refugee and climate crises, terrorist attacks, and cyber threats, amidst rising radicalisation, Euroscepticism and xenophobia.”

Her comments came as the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents approved a joint declaration on the foundation for a Conference on the Future of Europe that will engage with citizens’ concerns.

Trust in Brussels has plummeted during the coronavirus crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of deaths across the bloc, a slow and disjointed reaction to outbreak of the pandemic and a shambolic centralised vaccination programme which led to further rifts between member states widen.

After approving the joint declaration, the Conference of Presidents issued a statement which said: “The European Parliament endorses the joint declaration because we want the Conference on the Future of Europe to start its work as soon as possible.

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“The Conference will contribute significantly to building a Citizen’s Union.

“As direct representatives of European citizens, as stated in the EU Treaty, the European Parliament will hold a leading role in the Conference.

“As group leaders representing the broad diversity of EU citizens, we trust that the European Parliament’s prominent role will be reflected in the work and in the practical organisation of the Conference itself.”

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