In times of declining confidence and criticism of the functioning of the European Union, the upcoming European elections are one of the most critical elections in our common European history. The current institutional framework and the top-down hierarchy of European agenda-setting do not always equate to accepted decisions among the citizens. Combined with the rise in Eurosceptism, which claims to hold all the answers, this makes a change in European structures absolutely necessary.
Democracy International, together with Meer Democratie Netherlands, have launched the Now The Citizens campaign, which aims to build a bottom-up movement around the topic of democratic reform to convince the new European Parliament to develop a roadmap for Europe’s democratic future. We are asking all candidates for Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to sign the pledge, promising to advocate for randomly-selected citizens’ assemblies as a method to develop concrete recommendations on Europe’s democratic future and ensure proper and legislative follow-up to the recommendations of citizens. In the case that Treaty change is required to do so, a Convention process (Article 48, Lisbon Treaty) will be automatically triggered. In that case, candidates pledge to giving all citizens a final say on the outcome in a referendum. These steps should be explored in a parliamentary intergroup on the future of European democracy, and candidates who signed the pledge, commit to supporting its establishment.
Transnational deliberation among ordinary citizens via randomly-selected citizens’ assemblies is a precondition for democratic reform. Citizens need to be involved in a credible and proactive manner when it comes to deciding on the future of Europe – their own future. Only when citizens are given an active hand in shaping Europe can this sense of ownership develop. The citizens’ assemblies are to be supplemented by expert contributions and ultimately lead to the development of concrete proposals concerning the democratic future of Europe.
Our demands are also laid out in an open letter to future MEPs, endorsed by 56 NGOs, who call on the next European Parliament to become the Parliament of Change and take the lead in the democratic reform of the EU. Since launching the pledge in mid-April, over 150 candidates across the political spectrum have pledged to our campaign. And nearly 20,000 citizens have already signed our petition for a truly democratic Europe in one week's time. This demonstrates that there is growing momentum among civil society and citizens alike to have a say in the future of their Union.
The EU cannot afford to let another five years go by without any real attempts to integrate citizens in the decision-making process on Europe’s future, and time is running out for the EU to make fundamental changes so it can survive in the long run. Let citizens be a guiding force in shaping Europe’s future course, and let’s transform Europe to become a Europe of, for and by the citizens. The democratic clock is ticking.