This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 320294

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EUROPEAN POLICY BRIEF: TOWARDS A MORE LEGITIMATE FORM OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

February 3, 2017

TOWARDS A MORE LEGITIMATE FORM OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Policy scenarios and recommendations from bEUcitizen, a research project on the barriers to realise and exercise citizenship rights by European Union citizens

Written by
Francis Cheneval

 

Drawing on research conducted during the bEUcitizen project1, this policy brief explores existing as well as possible future mechanisms of plebiscitary and Direct Democracy in the European Union. The underlying premise is that democratic decision-making devices should be legitimacyenhancing. Legitimacy is a degree of acceptance of the polity, the government, and of its decisions by the citizens. Factual acceptance is not sufficient. The latter needs to be determined under justifiable conditions, minimally described as: access to alternative information, transparency, formal participatory equality procedures that are as outcome-neutral as possible.

Direct voting by citizens is a reality in the European Union. Plebiscites on issues related to European integration have been held for several decades in European Union member states and in states related to European integration. The United Kingdom’s referendum on membership in the European Union is only the most recent example. With the European Citizens’ Initiative, which allows a citizens’ committee that manages to collect at least a million signatures in minimum seven countries to make a policy proposal to the European Commission, the European Union itself has introduced a direct democratic instrument in the Lisbon Treaty.

However, the adequacy of direct democratic instruments to decide issues related to European integration is under dispute. Some see Direct Democracy as a decision-making feature that favours populism and undermines European integration. Others contend that Direct Democracy is a means to better connect elite-driven European integration with the citizens in a time when this
nexus is becoming ever more fragile. Both can be right, but this depends on the institutional design within which Direct Democracy is enacted.

Please click HERE to download the policy brief.