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Major conference explores European democracy in action

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19th March 2010

Is there a "democratic deficit" in the European Union? And should we care about it? A major conference at Aston University in Birmingham on 19th March, co-hosted by the Aston Centre for Europe and the University of Birmingham and organised in collaboration with the European Commission, will discuss the challenges facing the European Parliament in trying to connect with its citizens.

The changes brought about by the controversial Lisbon Treaty at the end of 2009 mean that the European Parliament has an increasing relevance to the decisions that affect people’s everyday lives across the 27-country bloc, but awareness of its role is limited.

Experts including Professor Simon Hix, Professor of European and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and Malcolm Harbour MEP for the West Midlands will be looking to identify how the European Parliament can increase awareness of its role and impact.

The conference is a timely opportunity to identify priority actions for the European Parliament, in view of the new powers conferred on this institution by the Lisbon Treaty.

Conference organiser Dr Nathaniel Copsey from the Aston Centre for Europe says: “With turnout as low as 35% in the UK in the 2009 elections to the European Parliament, this conference is a welcome exercise in mapping out ways in which the EU’s only elected body can make a real difference to the policies that people are concerned about.’

Co-organiser and Deputy Director of the Institute for German Studies at the University of Birmingham, Dr. Carolyn Rowe comments: ‘Public support for EU policy action is increasing and there is growing citizen demand for EU responses on a wide range of current challenges, such as fighting terrorism; protecting the environment; scientific and technological research; energy; defence and foreign affairs. The Lisbon Treaty will allow the European Parliament to make a real difference in these areas, but public awareness of this fact is low.’

This conference, which brings together politicians, senior academics and government officials from the region, will look concretely at what the European Parliament needs to be doing over the coming decade. Given the Europe-wide renown of Aston and Birmingham’s European research expertise, there is no better place to talk about what this policy agenda should be.

For further information about the conference contact Dr Nathaniel Copsey, Deputy Director, Aston Centre for Europe, Aston University, Tel.: 07753 846 611, or email n.copsey@aston.ac.uk.

ENDS

For further press information please contact Sally Finn on 0121 204 4552.

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