Belgium in Brief: The EP at 70 – is democracy growing old?

Belgium in Brief: The EP at 70 – is democracy growing old?
Credit: Belga

As 70th birthdays go, yesterday's celebrations for the European Parliament were understated – more a chance to forward to challenges than back on past successes. Speaking on the occasion in Strasbourg (the institution's official headquarters although most of their business is carried out in Brussels), Alexander De Croo stressed the Parliament's imperfection but dismissed the notion that it is an expensive and ineffective "talking shop".

Perhaps taking an oblique pop at the organisation's critics, the Belgian premier asserted that the EP retains relevance and called for greater cohesion and participation to strengthen its legal and political arms. De Croo has consistently made clear his belief in the extra-national power of the bloc, for instance insisting that assistance in the energy crisis can only be at a European level.

On the more abstract theme of democracy, Belgium's PM again spoke for top-down efforts to bolster engagement with the EU project. Citing attempts on sovereign nations, he underlined the legitimacy of the EP – the only democratically-elected EU body.

It is little surprise that Belgium, the EU heartland and home to many of its institutions, should be full of praise for the European Parliament. Nor is De Croo doing honesty a disservice when he invokes the authority of the bloc to aid Member States in their financial and energy woes; there is a limit to what smaller economies can achieve in the face of soaring inflation.

Yet it would be untrue to look upon individual Member States as impotent, most especially on the matter of democracy itself which can't be imposed from above (in spite of measures to encourage participation, such as fines for not voting). Vivifying political involvement must take place at a local level, and Belgium should be wary of civic apathy at home before looking beyond for champions of democracy.

Did you notice the EP's big day? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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