Democratic legitimacy and a genuine European identity can only stem from people’s participation in EU decision-making. The first step is a new EU Convention to consider proposals for improving EU democracy, because:
- The Convention is the only legal means of achieving substantive changes to the EU treaties, and
- It is the only forum in the EU that offers a more open and democratic way of making major decisions.
Article 48 in the Lisbon Treaty is scant in detail about how the Convention should work. For this reason we took the unique opportunity to build significant political pressure for a Convention that is democratic, transparent and participatory, and to make the case that all citizens should have the chance to vote on the outcome. By opening up a process that decides upon the very future of Europe, the Convention will generate a higher level of debate, better informed policy-makers, and more interest and participation from the public.
Democratic Europe Now Campaign
Ahead of the EU elections in May 2014 we ran the campaign “Democratic Europe Now“. Building an alliance of 40+ major organisations right across Europe and coordinating Europe-wide actions, we generated broad support for a Convention. In a vast lobby effort, volunteers and concerned citizens contacted more than 5,000 candidates for the European Parliament, asking them to pledge to bring real democracy on the political agenda. The effort yielded 118 deputies elected to the new Parliament pledging to submit a proposal for a Convention to reform the treaties for a more democratic Europe.
Models for the Convention and treaty-making procedures
After the elections we began working on a follow-up initiative to develop concrete models for involving citizens, their elected representatives and organised civil society in the Convention process and in other procedures for major reforms. We are convinced that designing the process is indispensable for ensuring that the next round of treaty changes are conducted under proper democratic scrutiny and transparency, and with meaningful involvement of citizens and civil society.
In the early stages of the project, we have set up partnerships with the following policy think tanks:
- Clingendael Institute for International Relations (Netherlands)
- Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations (Belgium)
- Elcano Royal Institute (Spain)
- Europeum Institute for European Policy (Czech Republic)
- European Civic Forum (France)
- Istituto Affari Internazionali (Italy)
- Natolin Center (Poland)
Together with the partners, we hope to bring together a core group of experts from politics, civil society and academia to develop new innovative models on citizen involvement in treaty procedures. Discussing the proposed models in conferences across Europe we seek to ignite debate among citizens, politicians, researchers and civil society actors about EU decision-making and the need for a democratic Convention. Proposals contained in a white paper will be aimed at policy-makers and civil society to contribute toward shaping the formal processes.