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Step five: High noon in the presidium

Step five: High noon in the presidium

01-06-2003

In the first week of June we got clear indications from members of the presidium and other Convention members that our far-reaching text on direct democracy would not achieve a consensus in the presidium (not a great surprise to us). We agreed with Jürgen Meyer to formulate a compromise text that would give citizens the right to present proposals to the European Commission, which would then have to decide whether to take legislative action or not.

 

 

 

This was a very small first step in the right direction, but it should not be underestimated. It is a citizens' initiative right similar to the one existing in Austria and often used by the people. The Convention plenary on 5 to 6 June was a rollercoaster that I will never forget.

First we received the information that a huge majority of the national parliament delegates in the Convention had accepted the compromise text and that Jürgen Meyer had gathered more than 30 new signatures for the new text. At the end it was signed by 72 Convention members.

President Giscard in favour

In a consultation with the national parliamentarians, President Giscard announced to our total surprise that he favourised the citizens´ initiative and that the presidium would find a way of endorsing it. Totally happy and full of optimism we went to the Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament and had some drinks. Then we met a member of the presidium who told us that the presidium had just rejected the proposal by a huge majority and that Giscard was not present at that meeting. The trip back to Berlin was a very sad one indeed …

Thouth the majority rejects the proposal

After some days of feeling quite depressed, I called Jürgen Meyer and told him about the latest developments. We agreed not to give up and to try to get a different decision in the presidium. Democracy International activists sent hundreds of e-mails to the presidium members; I sent faxes to all of them also. In Brussels on 12 June we used our last opportunity to "catch" some of them for a direct discussion.

Last minute

After several meetings of the presidium and two joint meetings of the European parliament and national parliament delegates they agreed a joint position on "last minute amendments" of the draft constitution. One of these seven points was the introduction of the citizens' initiative. The last presidium meeting took place at 3.00 pm on 12 June, and the results were presented by Giscard at 7.00 p.m. in the great plenary room of the European parliament.

At that point of time we had absolutely no idea what the presidium had decided. We were all very glad when we heard Giscard speaking about the citizens´ initiative and stating that the presidium had included the proposal in the draft constitution (leaving open the fixing of the concrete procedure by a European law). Continue reading our story...

Text by Dr. Michael Efler

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