Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized in his state of the union that people have to regain trust in the EU and underlined the need for the EU to ‘deliver’. Similarly, ECB president Mario Draghi called for an EU institution-based approach to get the European economy back on track. In the same speech, Draghi explained that it was thanks to the EU institutions that the economic crisis was being solved.
In this policy brief it is argued that the EU-centered perspective on the EU’s trust crisis needs serious qualifcation. If the EU-level is not the cause of the EU-trust crisis, then EU leaders should be careful not to create the expectation that they are the prime solvers of the EU’s trust crisis. Hence, frst a diagnosis is needed of the EU’s trust crisis: at what level of government is the EU’s trust crisis created? The focus on ‘people losing trust in the EU’ and ‘the EU needs to deliver’ risks a strong bias in the search for causes and solutions. This also raises the question whether the Eurobarometer, the public opinion surveys conducted regularly on behalf of the European Commission, is independent enough to provide the required EU-wide information.
The idea that EU support can be strengthened at EU level disregards the fact that the EU is built around (vastly different) member states. Juncker’s ‘EU has to deliver’ or ‘the EU that protects’ are typically EU-centered slogans in terms of the diagnosis of the problems and of solutions proposed. The starting point for regaining trust therefore lies primarily at the level of the member states and not the EU.