The European Commission presented its White Paper on European Governance for public consultation. The Paper contained a set of recommendations on how to enhance democracy in Europe and increase the legitimacy of the institutions.
The main recommendations of the White Paper are based on reports, studies and consultation with European, national and regional actors. The proposals for change include the following:-
The Union must renew the Community method by following a less top-down approach and complementing its policy tools more effectively with non-legislative instruments.
No matter how EU policy is prepared and adopted, the way this is done must be more open and easier to follow and understand.
To improve the quality of its policies, the Union must first assess whether action is needed and, if it is, whether it hould be atUnion level. Where Union action is required, it should consider the combination of different policy tools.
The EU institutions and Member States must work together to set out an overall policy strategy. They should refocus the Union's policies and adapt the way they work.
DUBLIN REGIONAL AUTHORITY'S RESPONSE
The Dublin Regional Authority considers that the reform of the European institutions and processes, at this time in the life of the EU, is an important and forward-looking step, which has the potential to improve not only the EU governance model, but also the national, regional, and local governance models within the individual member states.
The Dublin Regional Authority made a submission to the White Paper and the following is a brief summary of our comments:-
The Dublin Regional Authority acknowledges the role that the European Union plays in the development of regional and local governance in Ireland, however, the effectiveness of these tiers of government is largely dependent on the level of communication and involvement afforded them by national government and the EU.
In Ireland, as in many other EU member states, there is a marked decline in the numbers of voters turning out for European elections. The 'No' vote in the Nice Treaty Referendum, with a turn-out level of 34.79%, further highlighted the low level of voter participation. The Dublin Regional Authority recognises that its citizens, in the main, may not fully appreciate the importance of the European Union in their daily lives. However, the Authority considers that this lack of EU recognition, among the ordinary citizens of Dublin; Ireland and indeed Europe, stems from the fact that most people feel alienated from the EU's work and unsure about what the EU is and what its role and objectives are. It is now time that the EU institutions fully recognise the role to be played by regional and local governments, within member states, in rolling out the European manifesto.
The extent of the interaction and dialogue between regional government and the European Union affects the effectiveness of the regional and local authority's subsidiary role. Moreover the EU democratic mandate is largely dependent on the successful delivery of that mandate, by its constituent regional and local tiers of government, to the general population.
EU policy is of major concern to regional and local government in Ireland, as it is these authorities that play an important role in both the implementation of any EU policy and the development of projects for EU funding programmes.
Local government in Ireland is responsible for the implementation of vast amounts of EU legislation, one example being environmental law. Furthermore, both regional and local government is involved in many regional, local and trans-national funding partnerships where projects are partly funded by the EU.
The Dublin Regional Authority acknowledges that, in the case of EU funding, there may be a sense of justification in the old adage 'he who pays the piper, plays the tune'. However, many of the project ideas and the energy, enthusiasm and commitment, which make up EU funded programmes, come directly from the local and regional government level.
The local level of government, while is recognised as the action-oriented tier of government, has not been involved in the development of EU rules and regulations, which usually precedes vital local actions. By failing to involve the most important level of democracy, (the level closest to the people), the potential for difficulties in compliance with such rules and regulations is high. Regulating for local actions requires local knowledge and local participation.
Recommendations for change
The Dublin Regional Authority made the following recommendations:-
The involvement of regional and local levels of government in EU policy development is important due to (1) the democratic nature of these authorities and (2) the implementing role of these authorities.
To ensure the effectiveness of EU governance, citizen participation in and influence over EU policy development is fundamental,and regional and local authorities are the perfect vehicle for citizen participation.
A greater sense of participation and involvement can be achieved if there is wider consultation with all those affected byproposed legislation, before the Commission drafts its final versions. Enlargement will make wide consultation more challenging but even more necessary.