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Bruno Kaufmann: "Participation is crucial for democracy."

Bruno Kaufmann: "Participation is crucial for democracy."


In our second Interview Bruno Kaufmann the president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe and co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy takes a stand on our appeal More Democracy in Europe.


What role does democratic engagement play in your life?

Since my early years as a citizen of a small local community, I have been involved in political activities, initially specifically related to local and national issues as well as peace and environment campaigns. Later, after having led a national ballot initiative on abolishing the Swiss army, I got involved into the big democracy movement in central and eastern Europe - leading up to the establishment of the eurotopia-network in 1989, where for the first time a pan-European constitution with a European Citizens Initiative was proposed. For the last 20 years I was following up on the different development sections of the ECI up to the current launch. I am an elected member of local government in Sweden (, Chairman of an Election Commission, President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe ( and co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy ( I am an eligible voter in several polities including local, regional and national ones in Switzerland and Sweden as well as on the EU level. As a broadcast journalist I am covering political and societal issues worldwide.

In your opinion, which weaknesses does the EU face at the moment?

Developing genuine democracy on a transnational level is a key challenge of current generations. Ever since the disastrous world wars, the cold war and the emergence a globalized economy, existing democratic systems have been extremely challenged and with the EU, a first preliminary draft to upgrade democracy into the international realm has been made. However, the EU has been designed around a common notion of what we want to avoid (e.g. wars) instead of embodying a system allowing common answers to current and future problems. For this reason the EU's design has been far too defensive when it comes to implementing the principles and practices of modern democracy. It is very encouraging that this challenge has been identified broadly and that there are now serious efforts on the way to democratize the European Union. The European Citizens Initiative is one of the initial key steps, no doubt.

Why do you think is it important to reform the voting rule?

Current electoral law on the EU level is mirroring the struggle about transnational democracy in general, and the unwillingness to share power with the EU citizens specifically. One fundamental problem is the distance between an EU citizen and its representative at the EU level. This underlines the need for more comprehensive strategies to democratize the EU democracy. Having said that, it makes surely a lot of sense to allow more transnational party lists at the EP elections, allowing party groups to be more focused on common issues than being simply a secondary national election. Democracy without participation is a similar conceptual lack to modern representative that such a democracy would be without a proper legal framework or without any elections. So it is absolutely crucial.

Interview conducted by Vanessa Eggert

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