EU Democracy Reform Observatory

Insights, in-depth analysis, Ideas Papers News Comments Conversations Recommendations

The future of democracy and democratic reform in Europe

The EU Democracy Reform Observatory is a joint initiative by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the European Policy Centre, the King Baudouin Foundation, and the Stiftung Mercator. Our aim is to foster the debate on modernising European democracy and provide recommendations on how to make democracy and decision-making more legitimate, participatory, and effective in the EU.


Dominik Hierlemann

Senior Expert

Bertelsmann Stiftung

Janis Emmanouilidis

Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Studies

European Policy Centre


Invitation: European elections 2024 – What motivates young voters?

The European elections in June 2024 is a milestone for European democracy. Young Europeans drove up the voter turnout in 2019, and the surge in youth participation is likely to be repeated in 2024. […]

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EU Democracy reform Monitor

Keep track of how EU and national actors follow up on the Conference on the Future of Europe and get a comprehensive overview of recent developments in the field of citizen participation with the help of our EU Democracy Monitor. The Monitor provides an ongoing timeline of democratic reform activities, initiatives and debates across different institutions and actors, spanning from national to EU levels. 


How do we modernise democracy in the EU? What is the state and prospects of participatory democracy in this context? How can representative and participatory democracy work together? How can we make the best out of the outcomes of the Conference on the Future of Europe? Is there any room and appetite to reform the EU treaties? With our publications, we seek to spark and shape ideas about modernising European democracy through in-depth and outside-of-the-box research, analysis, debate, and policy discussion.  

Participatory democracy at the EU level: How to break the invisible ceiling?

Citizen participation is the instrument that could help the EU to confront ongoing permacrisis. However, EU and national decision-makers refrain from using its promising potential. Our new paper discusses why this is the case and what could be done to break through identified obstacles.
11. March 2024

Policy Brief 1|2024: The EU’s participatory enlargement

Future enlargement is a historic opportunity for the EU to reform, and not only institutionally. It is also a chance to become a genuine Union of citizens by involving citizens differently, far earlier and more effectively. Our newly published policy brief discusses concrete steps to achieve that.
30. January 2024

Assessing European citizens panels – greater ambition needed

The Conference on the Future of Europe demonstrated that Citizens’ Panels can function as a working instrument of citizen participation in EU policy-making. The European Commission pushed the idea forward and organised the first European Citizens’ Panels on the topics of food waste, virtual worlds, and learning mobility between December 2022 and May 2023.
In this paper, the EU Democracy Reform Observatory team summarise their observations on how the European Citizens’ Panels worked in practice. We outline a set of recommendations to enhance Panels’ effectiveness and make them a better-functioning tool for involving citizens and ultimately supporting EU democracy.
6. September 2023

Events & Multimedia

Our interactive event series, ‘Democracy Reform Conversations’, is a continuation of our earlier series, ‘Conference Conversations’, in which our experts talk with high-level guests about how to make democracy and decision-making more legitimate, participatory, and effective in Europe. Find out about previous and upcoming events here.

5th Online Democracy Reform Conversation

In the fifth edition of Democracy Reform Conversations, the speakers discussed the political and institutional obstacles to citizen-led EU reform. Members of the European Parliament Sandro Gozi, Associate Director and Head of the European Politics and Institutions Programme at EPC Dr. Corina Stratulat, Director of Studies at EPC Janis Emmanouilidis, and Project Manager at Bertelsmann Stiftung Andrey Demidov explored what prevents the EU from taking citizen participation seriously, despite all the achievements and evidence.

4th Online Democracy Reform Conversation

The fourth edition of Democracy Conversations featured the conversation between the Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs Tiago Antunes and two of the Observatory experts – Senior Advisor at Bertelsmann Stiftung Dr. Dominik Hierlemann and Associate Director and Head of the European Politics and Institutions Programme at EPC Dr. Corina Stratulat.

3rd Online Democracy Reform Conversation

The third edition of Democracy Conversations brought together eminent experts to discuss the biggest challenge currently on the EU agenda – the EU reform. The debate on the EU reform is evolving rapidly, and more and more concrete proposals shape it.