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Step one: paving the way

Step one: paving the way

01-06-2003

From March 2002 to November 2002 our work was concentrated on discussing our concrete proposals and on individual meetings with Convention members. At the end of March, IRI Europe founded a network of interested Convention members and NGOs. The report "Voices of Europe - the growing importance of Initiatives and Referendums in the European integration process" was sent to all Convention members, MEPs and national parliaments.

Efler and Berg Michael Efler and Carsten Berg in front of the European Parliament

A conference organized by IRI Europe in mid-September brought together almost 100 hundred participants from 20 countries. This high number demonstrated the growing and broad interest in the issue. After much deliberation we decided to push for two ideas: first (also the first priority), a referendum on the European constitution; and second, the introduction of far-reaching elements of direct democracy (a right of citizens' initiative including citizens' referendums and obligatory referendums for constitutional amendments). Our strategy was not to reduce our demands at the beginning.

It is interesting to note that during our first discussions, especially with Members Parliament, there was broad support for a Europe-wide referendum on the upcoming constitution regardless of the legal constraints (such a referendum would have required a prior amendment of Art. 48 of the European Union Treaty before adopting the new constitution, and that requires unanimity).

Strong opposition

We faced strong opposition to our proposal for national referendums in every member state on the same day. Yet we considered this demand as the only legally possible and politically feasible way. We stuck to our ideas because we saw that some MEPs especially held a totally unrealistic and sometimes ideological view of that issue. Some of them looked at the constitutional process from a solely European perspective and ignore legal, political and logical barriers. The story continues...

Text by Dr. Michael Efler

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