European Foundational Assembly : who is willing to join a citizens’ initiative?
The EU integration and expansion process has failed to give rise to a community of destiny. There is a need for citizens to lead the way in reinventing Europe by embarking upon a deliberative process, first at local level, then at European level.
Things have moved swiftly along since last week, when I sent my last letter, which was focused on the idea of a foundational process for Europe: I have received positive feedback from different circles, for the very reasons outlined in the summary of my proposal: there is a widespread awareness of the need to “reinvent” or “re-found” Europe; everyone feels that “the people” should be involved but that referendums calling for a yes or no answer are inadequate, and everyone is mulling over what the solution might be; an immediate strengthening of European governance, while necessary, does not constitute a political response to Brexit, and could give the impression that European leaders are indifferent to the dissatisfaction of a growing proportion of the population.
I would like to add two more reasons to those mentioned in my last letter: a foundational process emerging from local assemblies will bring our British friends back in the game, because reinventing Europe together is not incompatible with a popular vote against “Europe as it is”; since the process will have to take place over a significant period of time, citizen proposals, in all their diversity, will be made public and discussed around the time of the next European elections, and should highlight how deliberative democracy and representative democracy complement (not contradict) each other.
Many tell me that in order to take such a new step, we need to ensure not only the support of national leaders, of European institutions, and of regions and cities, but also the support of citizens, through a “European citizens’ initiative” as provided for by the Lisbon Treaty. It is true that I had not considered this possibility, but the argument and the idea seem to me well-founded. The declaration for initiating such an initiative could read as follows:
Proposal for a Citizens’ Initiative
A citizen-led process to rebuild Europe: a foundational assembly
The EU integration and expansion process has failed to give rise to a community of destiny. The need for citizens to lead the way in reinventing Europe by embarking upon a deliberative process, first at local level, then at European level.
Objectives of the citizens’ initiative, which the Commission is invited to respond to:
If a long-term deliberative process to collectively formulate a project for Europe – consisting firstly of rigorously-selected local citizen panels and then a European assembly – is to be fruitful, it will require human resources (translation and interpretation, expertise), material resources (wide-scale transmission of discussions, European assembly), financial resources (compensation for participants) and the political commitment of the Commission and other European institutions to consider and utilise these proposals.
Initiating a European citizens’ initiative first requires creating a “solid base” of citizens, from at least seven member states, prepared to endorse the initiative. Naturally, I turn to you first, with whom I am used to sharing my ideas and proposals, to endorse this proposal. Enclosed with this letter is a list of the information that needs to be provided in order to authenticate your signature. I would like to thank those who agree to support this citizens’ initiative. Please reply directly to me with your feedback. This will give us an idea of the degree of interest actually created by the notion of a European Foundational Assembly, and, indirectly, the response it might get across the EU. In the final list of endorsements sent to the European Commission, I will display the signatories in a way that best reflects their diversity.
If we can gather one million signatures, the initiative will be validated, which means that the proposal will be considered by the European Parliament, Commission and Council. Only one citizens’ initiative since the Lisbon Treaty has reached this point, that on “water as a human right”. With the present crisis in Europe, ours may also have a chance of getting this far. However, even if we don’t reach a million, gathering signatories from all over Europe will give a strong message to European leaders, some of whom are already expressing interest in our proposal.
For more posts from Pierre Calame, please visit his blog http://blog.pierre-calame.fr/
Former President of the Board, Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le progrès de l’Homme