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For a more democratic Europe now!

(by Sophie von Hatzfeldt, Democracy International) 

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With the exhortation to “Act.React.Impact” which is written across the European Parliament building, and the larger-than-life portraits of European citizens, the European Union seems to be saying: each citizen is important and has a meaningful role in the European Union (EU)!

However, there is a serious divide between the message and the political reality. EU decision-making is led by heads of state in closed-door negotiations. Diversity and social cohesion are being supplanted by the interests of economic and financial markets. Meanwhile, the citizens’ trust and confidence in the EU is plummeting.[1]

In the wake of the euro crisis and on the eve of major reforms to EU policy, there is a window of opportunity to call for democratic change in Europe, which is why Democracy International has launched this campaign. The campaign calls for an EU Convention to consider proposals to strengthen citizen participation and democracy in the EU.

If the Convention engages also civil society and citizens in the process, it can strengthen the legitimacy of the EU, while also becoming a forum for an open debate about Europe involving all political standpoints and levels of society. Therefore, it is vital that the Convention is democratic, participatory and transparent, and that it has time for thorough deliberation.

Hundreds of civil society organisations, politicians, scholars and public figures are coming together to cooperate on the campaign, aiming to show overwhelming support for a democratic Convention and a democratic Europe. The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) Director Sergi Corbalán has stated: “More and more EU citizens show their support to Fair Trade, yet EU trade policy remains ‘business as usual’ and being decided behind closed doors. The FTAO advocates for a new process for initiating, negotiating and finalising trade and investment agreements, giving national Parliaments and civil society a stronger role and thereby rolling back policy-capture by big business. We strongly support more and better citizens’ participation and direct democracy in EU policy-making; the sooner it happens the better”.

Democratic Europe Now is already building pressure on candidates for the next EU Parliament to initiate change towards more democracy. All candidates for the elections are being contacted to sign a pledge for a democratic Convention; supporters from all countries are encouraged to contact their candidates to commit to these demands. A Europe-wide ‘Democracy Day’ will be held in May, where activists can coordinate actions and media stunts to show their support.

At the launch of the campaign, Members of the European Parliament expressed their support for a democratic Convention, while outside the EU Parliament, underneath the “Act.React.Impact” signage and the gazing portraits of EU citizens, campaign volunteers used a live band and red carpets unrolling in every direction to show that the citizens are very important people (VIPs)! Without the people, Europe cannot succeed. The road between ‘act’ and ‘impact’ may be a long one, but the campaigners are ready and energised for the challenge.

For more information on the campaign and to sign the petition for a more democratic EU, go to www.democraticeuropenow.eu.


[1]While in 2006 the majority of Europeans still had a positive image of the EU, by 2013 this has fallen to 31%; the number of people who distrust the EU institutions has risen from 36% in 2007 to 58% in 2013 (Eurobarometer July 2013).

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