Proposals in the strong push for European democracy include, among others:
-Lowering the voting age to 16, thereby lowering the age to sign a European citizens’ initiative
-Support for strong outcomes to the Conference on the Future of Europe including treaty changes and the launch of a Constitutional Convention
-Support for European institutional reform such as strengthening the European Parliament and granting it right of initiative
-Reform of electoral law including uniform European electoral law with partly transnational lists and a binding Spitzenkandidat system
-Call for more transparency in the European Council’s work
-Call for an EU association law, thereby promoting European civil society engagement
The European proposal package presented by the new German government anticipates the strong dedication and ambition of Germany as a leading European actor to tackle long-needed democratic reforms in the EU.
In particular, lowering the age of signing a European citizens’ initiative, as the only transnational tool of participatory democracy available to citizens, strengthens citizens’ rights by reducing participation hurdles for youth. Germany joins Austria and Malta as the only Member States in the EU to allow 16 year olds to sign European citizens’ initiatives.
Democracy International, among many European civil society organizations, has campaigned for years for a reinforced role of youth in decision-making, including lowering the minimum age to sign a European citizens’ initiative. Support voiced by the new government on the outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe are also strongly backed by Democracy International, who has been demanding a citizen-led Constitutional Convention for years. Daniela Vancic, European Program Manager at Democracy International, said:
“The new German government’s commitment to citizens’ participation processes and mechanisms is commendable and highly welcome! Especially with issues such as climate change and rising cost of living disproportionately affecting young people, it’s about time that youth is given a real right to participate in political decision-making and have a say in their future.
We see the Conference on the Future of Europe as the stepping stone for a launch of a democratic reform process. We highly support the call for a Constitutional Convention according to Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, where fundamental concerns outlined in the coalition agreement regarding Europe’s democratic and constitutional future can be addressed.
Germany takes a great leap in the right direction by encouraging Europe’s democratic potential. These proposals should be considered an invitation to other Member States to follow suit.”
There have been slow but steady efforts at the EU level to increase citizens’ participation and expand the youth dimension. The ongoing Conference on the Future of Europe, for example, has reserved one-third of its participants of the citizens’ panels to youth citizens aged 16-25, and improvements to the user-friendliness of the European Citizens’ Initiative are all welcome steps. With fundamental democratic and institutional reform requiring treaty change in the EU, Germany’s new government shows promising signs for the future with a comprehensive and ambitious program.
Regulation (EU) 2019/788 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the European citizens’ initiative
Website of the European Citizens’ Initiative
German government coalition agreement (in German)
For questions, contact:
Daniela Vancic, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image courtesy of Márcio Cabral de Moura (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcdemoura/5300822093