After the European election Mr. Hollande and Mr. Cameron called for EU reforms http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27589075 Apparently this has not let to a strong impetus on the other participants http://www.euronews.com/2014/05/28/eu-leaders-agree-to-review-priorities-to-win-back-public-support/. I see so far no strong initiative for important steps towards a more democratic Europe. I myself spent the last two years with a working group of the German Pirate Party without coming to specific structural suggestions. One thing became cristal clear though: A European democratic „res publica“ will only work if a lively European public emerges, ie a public European wide space which is the main place of discussions for all major political issues which are important for the citizens of Europe. The current election changed a little bit here. By appointing top candidates for the European commission we had for the first time a TV debate which took place on a European wide scale. The quality of this discourse especially regarding currency and unemployment was rather disturbing though. Other debates like the one between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg took still place on a national level. As long as the media are organised mainly nationally there is a strong restriction for a European space for public dialogue on a wider level. As long as important media are not used transnationally by a major part of the citizens this shows that this European public has yet a far way to go. British media like BBC or the Guardian show that this process is under way since decades and that British media belong to the ones with the most transnational users and future potential to become pan-European mass media.
It's interesting that EU-critical parties like the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), UKIP and France National are better represented in the European Parliament than in their national assemblies. This leads to the fact that they take part in this European dialogue. Videos of Nigel Farage speaking in the European Parliament have been well noticed by German citizens via youtube. The question whether the AfD succeeds in being accepted by the UK conservatives in their EP group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Conservatives_and_Reformists helps citizens of Germany and Britain to get to know each others politicals parties better.
Sometimes minor rule changes can have a major impact on reality and on the thinking and the awareness of the people just by changing who talks with whom. If parties would start at some point to work with European wide election lists this could for instance also lead to a strengthening of the European public. The same could happen by electing the Europen Commission directly by all Europeans.
The most important issue before us is in my opinion the referendum suggested by Mr. Cameron. As far as I can see Mrs. Merkel and others did not wellcome this initiative. This is a large mistake. The big danger is that this leads to a debate in Britain only instead of a truly open European wide debate on possible reforms.
Cameron said:“My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners. The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum. „
I can understand that Mrs Merkel and others did not wellcome the initiative because Mr, Camerons ideas resemble more a common market instead of a political integrated Europe. But within a European debate his voice is a valid and important part independent of the question whether Britain will stay in or leave the EU. In so far his initiative is a big chance for Europe to talk to each other on a broad basis not only on the level of politicians. And I claim this: Properly done this could lead to a European public arising which is more valuable for a future European res publica than all strucural change one could agree upon. Even if Britain would opt out afterwards, if it played a well accepted role in the process it might get so fond of it that it joins sooner or later again. As far as I see it the debate would be taking place in English by the way, the most hands-on invitation to all Britains to stay part of the process.
I can only advice Mrs Merkel not to oversee this big chance but to take the opportunity. Besides political leaders the committee of constitutional affairs of the European Parliament http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/afco/home.html might start such a dialogue on EU reforms as well as NGOs like for instance the European Movement http://www.europeanmovement.eu/.