Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 10.21.52Charles Grant’s poor pieces yesterday about national parliaments and EU decision making set me thinking: what think tanks are there that actually are trying to come up with solutions to make EU democracy work better?

Yes, I respect ECFR and Bruegel, but EU democracy is not the main focus of either of them. Some of the work of EPC, CEPS and CER is useful, but rarely is it pointed and agenda-setting on the big issues of EU democracy. I asked for suggestions on Facebook and Twitter about what organisations – if any – were providing answers, and this is what people said (with sources if from Twitter):

Fondation Robert Schuman

New Direction

European Foundation for Democracy

Open Society Initiative for Europe

Centre for Liberal Strategies

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (suggested by @WillParkerBrux)

Libnet (suggested by @sandrogozi)

SWPBerlin (suggested by @annelaumen)

Anthony Zacharzewski, founder of Demsoc, was clear he was not providing answers himself at the moment, but thought that a Demsoc-EU could. Something to build in future maybe?

The last word however goes to Mathew Lowry for this cyncism.

Comments and further suggestions are most welcome – I am not altogether convinced by any of the above…


  1. I’d second the EUI, although I suspect that’s not quite what you had in mind. In addition to EUDO already mentioned, they have the annual EU State of the Union summit and a variety of research programmes in the Robert Schuman Centre, all of which tend to work closely with policy actors.

  2. @Jon, as you say, they’re not doing too well, and you don’t seem to have *any* withdrawalist / abolitionist organisations there.

    I’m not sure the business model of thinktanks or university research departments conduces well to making usable contributions to the EU debate at the level at which you seem to want to conduct it.

    Furthermore, these sorts of organisations are unlikely to represent all shades of opinion, or they come with baggage (isn’t Matthew Goodwin literally paid by the EU Commission to conduct research which involves saying “UKIP” and “extremism” in the same sentence?)

    What I’d love to see is the EU debate between independent, non-institutional scholars / thinkers.

  3. Filip S.

    Though not so prone on advocacy, many research instutions have looked upon DD quiet extensively. For more understanding these schould be considered too. My mind came up with Arena, Oslo, MZES in Mannheim, and the work of Hix cs. at LSE. For a good point of reference about the information deficit consult the Amsterdam school of political communication, located at the UvA. The EUI in Florence has the EUDO, the European Union Democracy Observatory, which provides regular updates about research on this subject.

  4. What about Notre Europe? Or (although they are more political organisations than think tanks) the Union of European Federalists and the Spinelli Group?

  5. Ralf Grahn

    If we want to express it in a positive manner, we could say that most think tanks, academics and insiders have left a huge gap.

    Normally these auxiliary forces argue that since the heads of state or government (EUCO) aren’t going to make the eurozone or EU democratic, they can only discuss various PR and Kindergarten projects to try to keep the [children] citizens happy (or win them back when they have fled into the national past).

    Do they really believe that people accept second rate democracy, or don’t they care?

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