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"We must learn from each other" - Interview with Bruno Kaufmann

"We must learn from each other" - Interview with Bruno Kaufmann

21-09-2012

Bruno Kaufmann was one of the experts who participated at the hearing on citizen participation in Brussels on 18 September 2012. On this occasion Democracy International interviewed Bruno Kaufmann, who has been active for more than 20 years to implement direct democracy in Europe and the world. Bruno Kaufmann is the Director of the Initiative and Referendum Institute, IRI. Currently, he is jointly preparing with Democracy International the global forum on modern direct democracy that will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 14 to 16 November 2012. Bruno Kaufmann holds Swiss and Swedish citizenship and lives in Falun, Sweden when he is not travelling around the world.

Democracy International: You have a passport from Switzerland as well as a passport from Sweden. Both countries are considered as ideal examples of democracy. What can Sweden learn from Switzerland, and what can Switzerland learn from Sweden?
Well, Sweden can learn from Switzerland that citizens should have a say in between elections and that citizens must not be a consumer but a producer of politics. Sweden should also learn that the rules of the game as written down in the constitution are an issue citizens should be involved in. In the other direction, Switzerland should learn from Sweden that democracy requires transparency, financial support and inclusion. Democracy needs to be extended to those that do not have Swiss citizenship yet. Sometimes, Switzerland is too much of a club where only the members can participate in the game.

What drives your political work for more direct democracy?
I gain a lot of energy from discovering new people, ideas and opportunities and when I see that change is happening. It does not matter how big or small these steps are – Many small steps into the right direction often bring about the change that we need.

Can people who are politically active professionally better solve problems than people who aren’t?
No, they can’t. Professional politicians often protect their platform and their role, and also they tend to exploit their role in order to become stronger and more powerful. In a democracy, politics should be a every-day-affair everybody is involved in and not just people who are paid for politics.

How will the European Union look like in five years?
Not that much different. Certainly we will have new members. And definitely the discussion on EU’s democratic future will have gained speed as it has become much more urgent. Also, the current practice with the European citizens’ initiative (ECI) will have taught us key lessons how to make the ECI more citizen-friendly and how to build a more supportive infrastructure that allows many more to become active.

How can citizens participate in building up your network of direct democracy? Who can they address to get involved?
My network is open to everyone and I am happy about everybody who joins our work on strengthening direct democracy. We need committed people who contribute to the debate. Every single person can teach us something. We must learn from each other. When we teach each other about how to be politically active and how to achieve good results we will gain the knowledge that we need in order to make direct democracy a reality in the EU.

Bruno Kaufmann can be contacted at kaufmann@iri-europe.org;
Here is the website of the Initiative and Referendum Institute.

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