Who we are

A joint initiative by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the European Policy Centre, the King Baudouin Foundation and the Siftung Mercator, the EU Democracy Reform Observatory aims to foster debate and discussion on modernising European democracy, providing recommendations on how to make democracy and decision-making more legitimate, participatory, and effective in the EU.

The Conference on the Future of Europe has revived discussions on participatory democracy and the place of meaningful citizens’ participation in the EU. During the Conference, citizens were charged with producing concrete recommendations for EU policy-makers, which the institutions pledged to follow up on. Since the end of the Conference, the Commission has added the citizens’ recommendations to its current annual work programme and has launched its ‘new generation’ of European Citizens’ Panels, to be convened ahead of major legislative proposals. Following the work of the Conference Observatory (the consortium’s earlier initiative focused on the Conference), the EU Democracy Reform Observatory seeks to advance discussion on the role of participatory democracy in the EU, its connection to representative democracy, and better instruments of citizen participation.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has openly challenged and contested European democracy, raising serious and fundamental questions about its resilience and future, while consistently testing the EU’s capacity for concerted political responses and action. It has also prompted reflection, both within the EU institutions and in member states, on whether the EU’s constitutional foundations, institutional order, and governance are ‘fit-for-purpose’. If these reflections become the basis for grand EU reforms, this will signify a new phase in the evolution of European democracy. The EU Democracy Reform Observatory aims to reflect on how proposals to reform the EU, brought about by the Zeitenwende, relate to and address the broader state of European democracy.

As these two major developments define the context for relaunching debates on European democracy, the EU Democracy Reform Observatory seeks to spark and shape ideas about modernising European democracy through in-depth research, analysis, and debate. In this spirit, the Observatory seeks to support EU institutions and decision-makers with fresh and outside-of-the-box thinking, to foster progress on this highly divisive issue.

How it started

The EU Democracy Reform Observatory builds on the work of the Conference Observatory, a central hub for activities surrounding the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Conference Observatory ran parallel to the Conference, monitoring, analysing and contributing to the debates surrounding this first-of-its-kind EU-level participatory exercise.

The Conference Observatory was launched in June 2021, as a joint initiative comprised of the European Policy Centre, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the King Baudouin Foundation, and the Stiftung Mercator. Ahead of and throughout the Conference, the Conference Observatory focused on monitoring the proceedings at the different CoFoE levels. Providing input on the various issues discussed in the context of the exercise, the Conference Observatory advised the CoFoE leadership and other constituencies on the CoFoE and the post-CoFoE process.

Key activities included the ‘Conference Conversations’ event series (12 public events in a talkshow format – available here), involving key CoFoE actors (including Guy Verhofstadt, Dubravka Šuica, and Daniel Freund, among many others), as well as a number of timely publications .

In addition to providing input, organising events, and communicating around the issues, the Conference Observatory ran an independent High-Level Advisory Group, chaired by Herman Van Rompuy and Brigid Laffan. This Group brought together a small but diversified group of experts, policymakers, and civil society actors, capable of generating new ideas with regard to the future of Europe, and communicating them effectively in the public debate. Throughout the Conference and especially in its final phase, the Group made recommendations on the outcome and future of the Conference, including a comprehensive report on the future of participatory process in the EU’s decision-making structure (available here).

Our experts

Andrey Demidov

Project Manager

Bertelsmann Stiftung

Angela Jain

Senior Project Manager

Bertelsmann Stiftung

Janis Emmanouilidis

Deputy Chief Executive & Director of Studies

European Policy Centre

Johannes Greubel

Head of Transnationalisation and Senior Policy Analyst

European Policy Centre

Marita Hauernherm-Fronemann

Senior Project Assistant

Bertelsmann Stiftung

Dominik Hierlemann

Senior Expert

Bertelsmann Stiftung

Perle Petit

Policy Analyst

European Policy Centre

Corina Stratulat

Head of European Politics and Institutions Programme and Senior Policy Analyst

European Policy Centre