21. Feb. 2009
IRIE / Council - meeting in Marburg / AG
Direct Democracy in Europe:
A short invitation for common
reflections and discussions
Some self-critical hypothesis, which should help us
to face realities better and to make some strategic choices
1. The quantitative increase of direct democratic events in the last 30 years should not mislead us to overestimate the general acceptance and appreciation of Direct Democracy (DD) in Europe. DD is still for far too many Europeans something strange, for most of the elites even dangerous, which has to prevented to be implemented really.
2. Never ever there has been so much talk about DD in Europe than in the last five years. But this does not mean that the general knowledge and appreciation of DD is high today. Especially in circles you might label the political class or the political elites the willingness to know really more about and to understand better is rather extremely low, not to speak about supporting the essentials of DD (Sharing power better with the people, giving real power back to the people etc) and the willingness to effectively implement it.
3. In a certain contrast to this we observe that general polls in some countries give high scores to the percentage of the society who’s position to DD is positive and in many states you observe more discussions and institutional reform processes which might lead to certain new and improved DD-Designs. But these real reform tendencies are extremely weak and still in their beginnings.
C. Rare encouraging experiences
4. Many (most?) really existing DD designs are extremely citizen unfriendly and/or not enabling citizens to impose people’s votes against the will of the governing majorities in Governments and Parliaments.
5. The agenda initiative is generally very much overestimated. It expresses the old “repressive tolerance” and less real emancipatorial potentials. It’s real DD potentials are closer to the traditional petition rights than to a real DD instrument.
6. This means that there are still very few citizens in Europe who are already able to make positive and encouraging experiences with DD. This is important to consider, because real experiences are the best agents of mental and political change processes. And they are essential in order to find and constitute popular courage and pressure to develop democracy on the transnational level and to democratise democracy at home on all levels.
D. National Referendums on Europe
7. The big trends of our times do not and will not help us in the near future to facilitate our work for new and better DD designs: The big financial and economic crises turn away the general attention from issues like democracy, democracy reform. Too many are to much driven again by fears, economics alone. Although the crises shows the need for new transnational institutions this need for better legitimated ones will be missed by too many. The potentials of the people(s) to built more and better democracies will be even more underestimated.
8. Also on European level quantity (“50 Ref. in Europe about Europe since 1972”) should not be identified with quality. With less new states, less new constitutions and less new memberships the Referendum-movement will slow down remarkably and become even more concentrated on very few states (IRL/CH/DK).
E. The Need of a Real EU Constitution and a European-wide Constitutional Referendum with a double majority
9. The “Irish Referendum chock”, as what the June-08-result was generally perceived, did not and will not help us in our efforts to increase the general acceptance of DD in Europe elites; most of the people prefer to turn there back to Europe than to try to democratise it.
10. The blame went directly to direct democracy, neither to the unfinished design of the Irish DD (“Europe only”), nor the bad engagement of the Irish political class, the bad institutional design of the EU or the fact that the “Constitutional-Reform-Treaty” (CRT) was a bad achievement. The real consequence, that there should be a European Referendum instead of national ones, was forgotten; No Referendums was for too many too “logic”.
11. To prevent further national regressions Radical-democrats and EU-Reformers have in my conviction no interest in a second No in the second Irish Referendum on the CRT this autumn. But after the yes which is to be respected, all Radical-democrats and EU-Reformers have every interest that the a real constitutional debate recommences in the European Union.
F. The new transnational European Citizen rights (Art.11/4)
12. Democracy, also DD, needs a transnational constitution; we need the courage to argue for a European federal state, which is less centralised as the EU today, but which is founded on a own democratic fundament, a European constitution with direct democratic elements, legitimated by a double majority of citizens and states in a European-wide Referendum.
13. We should consider to make use of the transnational people’s motion right in the new CRT (Article 11/4) to launch a real constitutional debate for 2011.
G. The choices to make for the IRIE
14. The unwillingness of the EP/EC to provide a real transnational democratic infrastructure which makes out of the citizens motion right in the CRT (Article 11/4) a right of all and not only of the privileged (money, organisational, professional power) few shows that the potentials of this right is not yet realised and welcomed by the European elites.
15. The IRIE has to develop a middle and long-term working strategy based on a accurate analysis of the position of DD in the European Design and public perception.
This means to me:
16. When we don’t want to fail we need to lay our on foundation, priorities and perspectives and can not only be determined what others propose to us.
Develop basic conceptional knowledge (Which are the big achievements/products of DD? Why the EU needs DD? What is DD – what is not DD?)
Intensify institutional networks on scientific level, now especially with Prof. Johannes Pichler (Salzburg/Graz/Berlin)
Try to address the citizens and peoples with educational tools and booklets and enable others to educate adults in DD
Create a transnational exchange-, developing- and endeepening platform (DD-Yearbook)
Develop a five-year working plan and stick to it
Advise and counsel regional, national and European citizen-networks in their DD-Education and DD-endeepening
Advise Parliaments, Governments and other Institutions in citizen friendly DD-Design
We need to develop a common working culture and relations which allows us to go a long long way and keep a long breath