European integration influenced the lives of citizens in profound ways. Yet, we know surprisingly little of how the citizens of the member states perceived and engaged with the processes of European integration. The two leading narratives of European Union history - that of it as an elite project and that of it as a community of democratic values - both gloss over the conditions, characteristics and limits of citizens’ participation in the processes of European integration.
New strands of research engage with social movements and the formation of organised interest groups to enable a more citizen-centred social history of Europe. Building on this new impetus, this paper focuses on potential forms of communicating expectations from below by addressing a so-far overlooked form of participation: petitions and letters to the European Parliament (and its predecessors) before the first direct elections in 1979. The paper analyses, firstly, who or which group(s) of actors did use petitioning as a form of political communication, why and under what circumstances. Secondly, it investigates citizens’ expectations and concepts of European integration that are reflected in these petitions. It thus sheds light on a mostly unnoticed dimension of the formative years of democracy in the history of the European Union.
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