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The economic crisis in Europe has rapidly become a sovereign debt crisis due to the failure to coordinate a coherent political response at European level. The austerity mantra that has been imposed on the European people has led to a further fragmentation of the European space, with citizens of “core” and “peripheral” countries having increasingly divergent abilities to influence European decision-making through traditional mechanisms of national representative democracy.
The institutions charged with ensuring the common goods of European citizens (the European Commission and Parliament) are undermined by the strongest countries in the European Council or by the European Central Bank. The approval of the Fiscal Pact, following the European Semester, the Sixpack and the Euro Plus Pact, is the latest European agreement focusing exclusively on the imposition of fiscal discipline which limits the power of citizens and parliaments (including the European Parliament) to decide over key economic and political choices, further decreasing democratic decision-making.
Europe cannot raise itself out of the crisis unless reforms are made to put citizens at the centre of the EU politics. Institutional reforms are needed to strengthen the role of elected supranational institutions, to give more forms of direct citizen democracy, to make the institutions accountable to their citizens, as in every democracy.