Boosting citizen engagement might not be enough to save democracy

This article is part of our special report Participatory budgeting: hype or democratic panacea?.

To fight democratic backsliding and strengthen local democracy, cities have developed creative tools to boost citizen engagement, such as participatory budgeting and regional consultations.

These forms of public participation are meant to bring democracy closer to citizens, giving them a voice in local matters.

However, most European cities are no closer to finding common ground with their national governments. This growing divide can hinder local actions to the point that some are asking for cities to have direct access to EU funding.

Furthermore, these participative tools might not be enough to fight growing populism across the continent even when adequately funded. Although participatory processes across Europe have boosted civic engagement, they have not been able to diversify the pool of participants to include citizens sharing populist attitudes.