Power to the People in the EU

A view from the Civic Participation Society, Bulgaria

(at the 3rd NDDIE-Conference, November 15-17, 2002 in Bratislava)


А. What we want to see in the European constitution?


I. Participatory rights:

-         right of legislative initiative at local/national (by e.g. 0.3% of voters) and European level;

-         right to initiate referendum at local, i.e. national (by e.g. 3% of voters) and European level;

-         right of recall of all elected officials;

-         election of judges by the citizens;

-         election of local/national prosecutors by the citizens;

-         аccess to public information – regulated universally for the EU;

-         All merrits of the Swiss army model - used in the future European army;

-         courts with jury elected by lot;

-         universal European regulation of local/national electoral procedures;

-         all the laws concerning participation – adopted by referenda;


II. Rights, rules, policies supporting the exercising of participatory rights:

-         right of civic education – by school and media (cognitive empowering)

-         right of civic access to the European and local (national) public media (e.g. the right of any civic initiative signed by 1000 people to get in the news) (atomisation reduction)

-         right of translation – funded by EU and national budgets (atomisation reduction)

-         depouperisation of the citizenry  - development and social regulations (economic empowering)


A2. What the elites want? Their European problems and the ways they try to solve them:

-         To recover the legitimacy of (confidence in) the EU institutions and leadership. By? Confidence tricking?};-) The good old way? - Give some rights, give some money… No need rights to work – no real thransfer of power! Just illusionary - an illusion of democracy must do. (Remember universal sufrage and national self-determination ‘rights’? Did they give power to the people and independence to little nations?)

-         To concentrate power in order to balance global competitors - USA, China and Japan? That is a common problem for the European elites and peoples.

-         Security, defence, terrorism, enemies…(if  missing, invent them!};o)



B. What we want in the way of drafting and adopting of the constitution?

-         public discussion – state funded and not only in the Internet and ‘contact groups’ but in the public (big) media and in the streets;

-         right of constitutional initiative for the citiznes - 2 million signatures from minimum 5 countries.

-         “participatory component(s)” should be worked out and iserted in the alternative draft(s) emerging on other (i.g. subordination) basis (federalist, konfederalist, unionist…). If such component(s) are not inserted in the final draft(s) offered to the voters (or to parliaments for ratification) nothing else remains to the citizens percieving themselves as excluded from policy-making in he Union but to produce a separate draft(s) or amendment(s) to the official draft(s) or to the adopded constitution if it remains void of viable participatory components;

·        The humble as far façade of participatory democracy provided by art. 34 in the last official draft of European constitution has other functions - not to give rights to the people but to trick/get their confidece for nothing – for an illusion and great promis of  ‘participatory democracy’ (A horse for a hen!{:o). Obviously the term has become a hit – as universal sufrage and national self-determination a century ago. 

·        The ‘participatory component’ would only technically varry in the different opitons of unification (federalist or unionist or whatever) - in any case it will persue THE SAME effect: placing the European citizens at the ‘commanding desk’ of European policy-making by ‘arming’ them with all the rights and resources needed for direct participation in all the (four) public powers (legislative, executive, judicial and media) running the ‘State of Europe’ – from bellow or at the top. So in the “Europe of nations” variant where a lot of power remains in the nations, the participatory rights should be regulated universaly in the European constitution (not in nacional constitutions) as a guarantee against a local exclusion of the people from policy-making (which otherwise will be the case in politically backward countries if more power is left locally and to the ‘national’ parliaments). For some nations this high standard of democracy will be introduced from above (even if adopted by local referenda) – the citizens will be allowed to vote in it for their rigts from above – from Europe, not from their local power-holders (they will not be allowed by their national power-holders and can’t outbalance them). Finland may have the best of civic control on statesmen so they need no DD rights neither any help from Europe to install it if they want. But e.g., in Romania or Bulgaria civic control in state and public affairs is merely absent. So? So they need the help of Europe.)

-         direct civic participation in the adoption of the constitution – by referendum(s)

-         all principle alternatives – to the vote.


B2. The drafting process as ‘THEY’ designed it and as we would like to see it.

       They: Top-down instalation of a drafting body, drafting procedures, and drafting terms… We: Disband  convention, change schedule, start it down-top, change the whole procedure.

       They: Inserted a human rights component (The Chart) drafted and adopted without any civic participation before the Convention started its work. We: Rewrite the Chart thoroughly after public discussion!

       They: Kind chating with NGOs in ‘contact groops’. We: Regulations for a constitutional initiative for citizens – right to place draft alternatives to the vote.


C. How to get support from the people in Europe for these demands?

1. How to reach the people? - Through media (?), through the streets… Who could fund that?

2. How to convince them to (act in) support of these demands (DD in EU constitution, DD in drafting and adopting the constitution)? - By communicating to them the set of problems aggravating and unresolved by representatives and the danger of deceit and further curtailing their democratic rights a unified European mega-state…

3. What actions for amounting a max. pressure in process of national and EU decision-making, at the national and EU decision-makers. Non-violent (street) action. Signatures? – Only if millions.  Media campaigns? – Without access for citizens to the big media? … Who would fund action?