Current and previous Scholars’ projects

Reconnecting Citizens: European Solutions to Energy Poverty

Energy poverty, the inability to provide a home with sufficient energy for heating, cooling, cooking and lighting, has severe health impacts, harming individuals and, by extension, society. Across Europe, 57 million people live with energy poverty. In extreme cases, this may lead to the disconnection of energy supply for these vulnerable households, depriving them of an essential service.
Prohibiting disconnections assures a minimum level of protection afforded to European citizens. This measure needs to be supported by local initiatives doing the groundwork of mediating between stakeholders and assisting energy-poor citizens on the journey out of energy poverty.


The recent history of the European Union is a story of increasing public distrust, dissatisfaction, and disengagement from EU institutions. The Euro and migration crises have compounded public discontent with EU policy results and processes. In the Brexit campaign, terms like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘take back control’ highlighted the perception that EU institutions do not adequately represent the public. Many believe the EU is run by technocratic elites who form policies without heeding to citizens’ perspectives, and that ‘Brussels is only talking to Brussels’.

To restore public trust in EU institutions, citizens must be involved in the policymaking process. One avenue is public consultation. Public consultation enables citizens to voice their opinions on proposed policy and increases their trust in democratic processes. It obliges EU institutions to be transparent and accountable regarding how public opinion influences policy and incorporate diverse views in the decision-making. Furthermore, online public consultation, at low cost and with low barriers to access, makes citizen engagement more efficient and inclusive.


European citizens demonstrate multiple forms of disconnections to the European Union (EU). These disconnections are a complex phenomenon that only sometimes amounts to Euroscepticism. They threaten the EU in its very existence.

Our qualitative research offers three key findings: (1) The diversity of disconnections is greatly underestimated. (2) The EU’s current attempts to improve communication with its citizens are insufficient to address the challenge of disconnections. (3) Disconnected citizens need a more engaging and inclusive dialogue between them and policy-makers.

The policy aims to reconnect European citizens with European institutions in order to increase the EU’s democratic legitimacy and give crucial support for its very existence.

Increasing the legitimacy of the European Union

Since its inception, the European Union has significantly grown in power and legislative oversight. In particular, the European Parliament – initially formed as a consultative body – is now an international decision-maker and law-setter with considerable impact on Member States and their citizens. Despite this, prior to 2019, voter turnout for the European Parliament elections had decreased continuously since voting began in 1979. In 2014, average voter turnout was just 42.6% and only 8 Member States had a turnout greater than 50%1. Voter turnout is particularly low amongst young people: in 2014, only 27.8% of voters under 24 years of age voted. At the same time, young people tend to have significantly different political views and priorities compared to older generations. The result of this evident paradox is a European Parliament that has greater power and influence on people’s lives but decreased legitimacy and democratic authority with which to make key decisions.

Given this context, we launched the campaign ‘You&EU’. Our mission was to encourage young people to participate in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections, by illustrating the impact of specific EU policies on their lives in an accessible and engaging way.
Across the website and social media channels that we designed and created, we shared blog posts, clear voting information, videos and images all highlighting the importance of European institutions on and for individuals. Through these platforms, we reached over 389,000 people across the EU.