Following the elections in EU countries for their members of the European Parliament and as some of them start the campaigns leading to referenda on whether or not to ratify the draft European Constitution, Elvire Fabry examines the expectations of EU citizens with regard to their institutions. She stresses that not only is there a lack of legitimacy, the EU must deal with a real civic shortfall, related mainly to adequate public consultation. The agreements made in recent years (from Maastricht to Nice, by way of the draft Constitution) are an improvement in this direction, but what about the citizens themselves - what are their expectations and how can these be met effectively?
As the author emphasizes, this progress (right to more consultation, strengthening of the powers of the Parliament, etc.) does in part satisfy the demand for greater public participation in the debates about European affairs. Nevertheless, paradoxically, there is good reason to fear that the vast majority of Europe's citizens cannot be bothered to make the most of their opportunities. Given this situation, the decision to resort to referenda on the Constitution, in France in particular, runs the risk that, unless there are real efforts to educate and communicate with the voters, the turn-outs will again be low, or even that the Eurosceptics will win.