Trust in governance
Trust is a fundamental condition for a fair and cooperative society. It also plays an important part in contributing to social capital. While a degree of distrust may be required for a well-functioning democracy, waning trust in governments and other institutions and in the EU can impact European governance in multiple ways. The challenge is to restore and improve trust as a basis for sustainable and legitimate governance.
Proposals should reappraise definitions of and approaches to trust in and between governments, in public authorities and other public institutions as well as in private actors having due regard to the philosophical, ethical and psychological foundations of trust and trustworthiness. This should include amongst others the EU, the Euro, political parties and financial systems, and may include markets and regulatory institutions, the media as well scientific expertise and institutions. Proposals should also investigate possible correlations between the levels of trust in national governments and in the EU as well as their underlying dynamics. The relationship between trust and distrust should be clarified to identify which levels are conducive to stable, sustainable and fair social relations and governance as well as the thriving of citizens. Factors contributing to and affecting trust in governance at various levels, including transparency and accountability, should be investigated too.
Proposals should identify potential thresholds of decreasing levels of trust, i.e. junctures when distrust becomes a game changer. They should also investigate, both empirically and normatively, possible relationships between trust and inequalities, trust and legitimacy as well as between trust and the quality of democracy. Possible correlations between trust, social inclusion and belonging should also be considered. In addition, research may consider whether and under what conditions participatory practices beyond electoral participation are trust enhancing including transparent and open decision-making. The role of civil society in the underlying dynamics of trust building should be investigated too. In addressing the issues above, experimental research should be performed as relevant. The action should also develop criteria, indicators and early warning mechanisms for detecting weak signals of decreasing trust. The role of the media, including social media, language, news generation and new phenomena such as fake news should be examined. Scenarios on consequences of (further) decreasing trust should be developed which may draw on experiences from outside Europe where relevant.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
By enhancing the knowledge base on trust, including the factors determining changes in trust, the action will feed into various initiatives to restore and improve trust in governance and enhance the quality of democracy. It will also contribute to improving trust in science and to constructing trust-enhancing narratives for national governments and EU governance.