Transatlantic perspectives: Democracy in action

Elections are the most visible sign of democracy in action – it’s when ‘The People’ get to choose their representatives and politicians are held accountable. So with the EU and the US elections behind us and Denmark heading towards an election year, it’s time to reflect on some interesting similarities across the Atlantic.

Elections are too often an excuse for politicians to do nothing (Photo: Colourbox)

Democratic deficits
In spite of our focus on the democratic process, sometimes democracy is difficult to find. Take the EU’s awkward process when appointing commissioners or that US voter turnout in the US midterms was an embarrassing 36 percent – a 72-year low.

Our elections are also increasingly drawn-out affairs and too often an excuse for politicians to do nothing. Rhetoric like ‘get down to work’ or ‘roll up our sleeves’ is used extensively on both sides of the pond. Some believe when they ‘do nothing’ they’re at least not making things worse!

Political gridlock
In Denmark, the national budget agreement is a good example of how the wheels of reform grind to a halt as we move into election mode. While the agreement includes plenty of initiatives aimed at pleasing specific segments of the electorate, business is not even mentioned.

In the US, the Republicans won a decisive victory in the midterm elections and now have a clear majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But the US seems to be in a permanent state of campaigning – and even before the new Congress is in session, the talk is about potential candidates for 2016.

Must refocus
But there’s hope that the new Congress and the president may be able to make progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). However, I have my doubts that the same holds true for the new European Parliament.

Nonetheless, the US and EU must refocus their efforts on an ambitious TTIP agreement – one that brings meaningful access to markets on both sides of the Atlantic and unleashes the potential that regulatory co-operation holds to our combined economic future. So ‘roll up your sleeves’ and get to work!