Citizens’ participation at the local level in Europe and Neighbouring Countries

Contribution of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies

by Antonella Valmorbida (Volume editor)
©2014 Monographs 394 Pages


ALDA – The Association of Local Democracy Agencies – is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of good governance and citizen participation at the local level. It is made up of over 160 members comprising local authorities and civil society organisations in the enlarged Europe.
Recently, new forms of interaction between citizens and decision makers have been put in place. By analysing ALDA’s 15 years of hands-on activities with its members and partners, this publication contributes to a better understanding of the added value of citizen participation at the local level in Europe and its neighbouring countries.
This book brings together the work of the Director and staff of ALDA and of the Local Democracy Agencies, as well as numerous practices and voices from the members and partners of its vast network. Through the field experiences presented, ALDA shows how and why citizen participation leads to the adoption of better solutions, and, at the same time, fosters long lasting, balanced development.
This publication formulates conclusions and offers insightful input for future activities aiming at building truly democratic local democracy. It is therefore particularly useful for all those who intend to work within the recently adopted programme ‘Europe for Citizens’ 2014–2020, as well as to bridge the topics of active citizenship and development – the focus of the European Years 2013 and 2015.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spring 1996 – Bascarsija (Antonella Valmorbida)
  • Foreword (Oriano Otočan, Jean Marc Roirant)
  • Chapter 1. Objectives of This Volume
  • 1.1. From a Representative Democracy to a Participative Democracy: Practices and Evaluation
  • 1.2. What is the Added Value of the Citizen Participation Practices Put in Place in the Last Years?
  • 1.3. At the End of the 2007–2013 Programmes, What Did We Learn from the Programme Supported by Europe for Citizens?
  • Chapter 2. The Approach of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies to Citizen Participation
  • 2.1. Territorial Approach and Local Communities at the Core of the Action
  • 2.2. Local Authorities and Civil Society Working Together: a Comprehensive Form of Decentralisation
  • 2.3. Project Based Approach
  • 2.4. The Local Democracy Agencies Concept
  • 2.5. Features of Cooperation in the LDAs
  • 2.6. Definitions
  • 2.7. Citizen Participation to Develop a Sense of Ownership and Responsibility to the Community and Inclusive Society
  • 2.8. Participatory Democracy: a Fundamental Element for Building a Democratic Society
  • 2.9. Citizen Participation: a European Value within the EU and in the Enlargement and Neighbouring Countries. Eastern Europe and Western Balkans in Transition
  • 2.10. The Southern Policy of the European Union
  • 2.11. Assessment of Our Action
  • Chapter 3. Data and Figures from a Seven Years Implementation Period
  • 3.1. Methodologies Adopted
  • 3.2. Analysis of the Data
  • Chapter 4. Citizen Participation in Europe. Focus on the European Year of Citizens, Practices and Trends
  • Introduction: Trends and Development
  • 4.1. Citizen Participation and the European Union Policies
  • 4.1.1. The Lisbon Treaty and the Opportunity Offered by the Art
  • 4.1.2. European Citizens’ Initiative, Start up, opportunities and Difficulties
  • 4.1.3. Other Possibilities with Consultations and Structured Dialogues and Networks at the EU Level
  • 4.1.4. Civil Society Forua
  • 4.2. Local Authorities and Civil Society Networks
  • 4.2.1. The European Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • 4.3. Individual Participation: One by One
  • 4.4. The Role of the European Economic and Social Committee
  • 4.5. The Europe for Citizens Programme
  • 4.6. Council of Europe’s Practice in Matters of Citizen and Civil Participation: Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision Making Process and other Mechanisms (Biljana Zasova Friederich)
  • 4.7. Final Considerations
  • Chapter 5. Citizen Participation at the National Level
  • General Frameworks of Consultations and Partnership
  • 5.1. The Power of Partnerships: Latest developments with the Compact between the Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector in the UK (Oliver Henman)
  • 5.2. Civil Society Participation in Latvia (Rasma Pipike)
  • 5.3. Citizen Participation in Georgia – How Does It Really Work? (Davit Melua)
  • 5.4. Citizen Participation. The Case of Sweden, from My Perspective (Ludvig Sandberg)
  • 5.4.1. The Framework
  • 5.4.2. The National Level
  • 5.4.3. The Regional and Local Level
  • 5.4.4. Challenges
  • 5.5. The challenges of Citizen Participation in Transitional Societies of Western Balkans (Zoran Stojkovski)
  • 5.5.1. The Challenges of CSOs in Fostering Citizen Participation in Western Balkans Countries
  • 5.5.2. Some Promising Models and Examples That Positively Influence Public Participation at the National and Local Level
  • Chapter 6. Citizen Participation at the Local Level and Best Practices
  • Introduction
  • 6.1. Training and Problem Solving Modules on Active Citizenship Proposed by ALDA
  • 6.2. Council of Europe and Practices for Citizen Participation at a Local Level
  • 6.3. Citizen Participation Practices at a Local Level
  • 6.3.1. Engaging New “Voters”: Recently Naturalised Swiss Citizens and Young People (Katja Blanc)
  • 6.3.2. To Increase Citizen Participation, There is a Strong Need to Educate and Inform Citizens, Youth in Particular (Jean Claude Mairal)
  • 6.3.3. Social Capital and the Way Citizens Are Involved Are the Central Aspect of the History of Reggio Emilia. The Municipality Coordinates “Decentralisation and Participation in Deliberative Processes” (Serena Foracchia)
  • 6.3.4. Active Citizen Is the One Who on His/Her Own Free Will, Is Involved in the Accomplishment of Tasks Benefiting Society without Wishing for Any Kind of Economic Reward (Chrissa Geraga)
  • 6.3.5. The Dominant Vision of Active Citizenship in Croatia Is Promoting and Developing Civil Society (Patrizia Bosich)
  • 6.3.6. Working on The Environmental and Social Fields and Introducing Critical Historical Consciousness to Encourage Active Citizenship (Steluta Purcaru)
  • Chapter 7. Citizen Participation in Enlargement and Neighbouring Countries: Comparing Frameworks, Experiences and Outcomes
  • 7.1. Citizen Participation at a Local Level in Eastern Partnership Countries – An Essential Element of Democracy Building and Sustainable Development Introduction
  • 7.1.1. The Role of the Civil Society Forum for Eastern Partnership and Its Subgroup about Local Government and Public Administration Reform
  • 7.1.2. Activities of the Local Democracy Agencies and Related Projects by ALDA
  • 7.1.3. Conclusions
  • 7.1.4. Additional Documents
  • 7.2. Local Democracy Agencies in the Western Balkans. Paving the Way towards EU Integration.
  • Introduction (Stanka Parac)
  • 7.2.1. The Role of Parliaments
  • 7.2.2. The Role of Local and Regional Democracy
  • 7.2.3. The Role of Civil Society
  • 7.3. The Tunisian Spring or the Democratic Transition from Representation to Participation (Moncef Ben Slimane)
  • 7.3.1. The First Steps of the Democratic Transition
  • 7.3.2. The Tunisian Spring: from Representative to Participative Democracy
  • 7.3.3. ALDA and LAM ECHAML Working for Citizen Participation
  • Chapter 8. Experience of the Local Democracy Agencies in Citizen Participation
  • 8.1. LDAs Analysis
  • 8.1.1. LDA Albania
  • 8.1.2. LDA Armenia
  • 8.1.3. LDA Subotica (Serbia)
  • 8.1.4. LDA Central and Southern Serbia (LDA CSS)
  • 8.1.5. LDA Georgia
  • 8.1.6. LDA Kosovo
  • 8.1.7. LDA Montenegro
  • 8.1.8. LDA Osijek – Operational Partner of ALDA
  • 8.1.9. LDA Sisak – Operational Partner of ALDA
  • 8.1.10. LDA Verteneglio/ Brtonigla – Operational partner of ALDA
  • 8.1.11. LDA Prijedor (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • 8.1.12. LDA Zavidovići (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • 8.1.13. LDA Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • 8.2. Experience of the Local Democracy Agencies in Citizen Participation – Case by Case
  • 8.2.1. The Local Democracy Agency in Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (Dženana Dedic)
  • 8.2.2. LDA Georgia (Joseph Khakhaleishvili)
  • 8.2.3. The Green Agenda in Niksic – Participative Development and Implementation of the Local Sustainable Development Strategies and Plans (Kerim Medjedovic)
  • 8.2.4. LDA Zavidovići (Sladjan Ilic)
  • 8.2.5. Youth Participation at a Local Level: the Experience of LDA Verteneglio (Umberto Ademollo)
  • 8.2.6. LDA Armenia (Lusine Alexandryan)
  • 8.2.7. Why Talk about Active European Citizenship and Citizen Participation? (LDA Osijek, Croatia, Miljenko Turniski)
  • 8.2.8. Local Democracy Agency for Central and Southern Serbia (Sasa Marinkov)
  • 8.2.9. Democracy and Citizen Participation in Today’s Global World (LDA Sisak, Paula Raužan)
  • 8.2.10. LDA Prijedor (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (Dragan Dosen)
  • 8.2.11. Promoting Democratic Governance in Local Multicultural Community (LDA Subotica, Serbia, Silvija Patarcic)
  • Chapter 9. Citizens’ Panels: an Innovative Approach for Enhancing Participation (Marco Boaria)
  • 9.1. Citizens’ Panels in Practice: Introducing the Key Components
  • 9.2. The Experience of the Association of Local Democracy Agencies
  • 9.3. Lessons Learned. Analysis of the Outcomes
  • 9.3.1. A Question of Numbers…
  • 9.3.2. A Question of Time…
  • 9.3.3. A Question of Trust…
  • 9.3.4. A Question of Method…
  • 9.3.5. A Question of Levels…
  • 9.3.6. A Few Key Questions…
  • Chapter 10. Contributions About Citizen Participation in Europe
  • 10.1. Democracy Means Construction (Jo Spiegel)
  • 10.2. Analysis of Citizen Participation Projects by the Foundation for Partnership and Civil Society Development of the Istrian Region, Croatia (Andrej Pevec)
  • 10.3. The Local Economic Development Agency of the Vlora Region in Albania, a Practical Example from the UNDP Art Programme in Albania (Giancarlo Canzanelli)
  • 10.4. The Experience of Developing the Mechanisms of Civil Society’s Participation in the Eastern Partnership Initiative: the Civil Society Forum of Eastern Partnership and Its National Platforms (Andrei Yahorau, Alena Zuikova)
  • 10.4.1. Civic Participation in Contemporary Authoritarian Systems. The Case of Belarus
  • 10.4.2. Belarusian National Platform as a Form of Developing the Participation Mechanisms
  • 10.4.3. In the Direction of a Further Growth
  • 10.5. Practices and Prospects for Citizen Participation at the Local Level in the EU. The Committee of the Regions’ Point of View (Mercedes Bresso)
  • 10.5.1. Re-building the Lost Trust in the Political Institutions of the EU by Reinforcing Citizens’ Awareness of the Rights Linked to EU Citizenship
  • 10.5.2. The Key Role of Local and Regional Authorities
  • 10.5.3. What Are the Rights Which Constitute the EU Citizenship?
  • 10.5.4. Case Studies. Examples of Good Practices by LRAs All around the EU
  • 10.5.5. A Tip for the Future: Cultural Foyers vs EU InfoPoints
  • 10.5.6. Conclusion
  • 10.6. Decentralised Cooperation Serving Citizens (Ivana Dimistrovska)
  • 10.6.1. Citizen Participation in Macedonia and France
  • 10.6.2. Decentralised Cooperation for Better Local Governance
  • 10.6.3. Citizen Participation in Actions for Local Development: Case Studies
  • 10.6.4. Challenges Faced in the Promotion of Citizen Participation
  • 10.6.5. Conclusion
  • 10.7. Youth Participation in EuroMed: Illusion or Reality? (Bernard Abrignani)
  • 10.8. For a Year of the Real European Citizen, Policy Paper on the European Year of Citizens (Giovanni Moro)
  • 10.8.1. Which Citizenship
  • 10.8.2. Which Citizens
  • 10.8.3. What to Do
  • 10.9. What Kind of Post-National Democracy? (Giuseppe Gangemi)
  • 10.10. Participatory Democracy in View of the Reorganisation of EU Constitutional Order (Pier Virgilio Dastoli)
  • 10.11. Citizen Participation in the Decision Making Process: Some Reflections (David Kode and Danny Sriskandarajah)
  • 10.11.1. Lessons Learned
  • 10.11.2. What Needs to Change?
  • 10.11.3. Conclusion
  • 10.12. The Congress – An Active Promoter of Citizen Participation (Andreas Kiefer)
  • 10.12.1. Treaties – The Legal Basis
  • 10.12.2. Recommendations for Political Practice
  • 10.12.3. Participation of Civil Society
  • 10.12.4. Findings and Perspectives for a New Era
  • Chapter 11. Conclusions
  • Chapter 12. Annexes
  • 12.1. WTD Partners Take Position on Human Development Policies
  • 12.2. Empowering Citizens and Strengthening Local Governance in Neighbouring Countries: Lessons Learned and Opportunities from East to South. June 7th, 2012, Region Friuli Venezia Giulia, Udine, Italy
  • 12.3. Volunteering for Democracy: Dangers and Opportunities for Good Governance and Active Citizenship
  • 12.4. ALL.4.EU – ALDA Charter of Citizens’ Panels
  • 12.5. EYCA Recommendations – Towards Democratic European Citizenship
  • 12.5.1. EYCA Manifesto

← 16 | 17 → Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spring 1996 – Bascarsija

Together with a group of citizens from Vicenza (Italy), we organised support for an orphanage in Sarajevo. A couple of months earlier I had met a woman, Enisa, who had escaped from the besieged city through the tunnel. She said she cried when she reached Venice train station. Everything looked so normal there, while at home it was a constant nightmare. We kept in contact and since then we have worked with IKRE Foundation, in Sarajevo, to support children.

We arrived in Sarajevo for the first time in the spring of 1996 (Dayton agreements were signed a few months earlier), in a totally destroyed city. I met Adnan, a friend of Enisa, a man in his sixties. He used to be the director of one of the local banks. We had a coffee together in the Bascarsija. Our conversation – a bit surreal – ended up talking about how nice it is to read Russian authors. “Certainly, it is better to read them in Russian. I am lucky I can do it. Most of their meaning gets lost in translation.” But he answered: “I don’t know. Anything is better than war. We lost everything and we don’t know what for. As long as people talk, there is hope. Listen to me: never make war.”

Antonella Valmorbida, Director of ALDA← 17 | 18 →

← 18 | 19 → Foreword


President of ALDA, Responsible for International and European Affairs of the Region Istria (Croatia)

In the last twenty years, our world changed a lot. In particular, my world did. I am from Istria, a wonderful peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, which for the most part belongs today to Croatia. My homeland is a multicultural and multilingual region with a very strong regional identity, which comes from a turbulent history, social and cultural specificity and geography. Some of the very old peoples who lived next to us happened to belong to a series of different states, always remaining in the same place. Only in the 20th century, it was Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Italian kingdom, then Yugoslavia and, today, Croatia which last year became a member of the EU. But certainly, no matter how it is, we feel strongly linked to Istria, our hinterland, and our sea and coasts.

In the recent past, in the events during the 1990s that wrecked Croatia and the Balkans in the conflicts, we always supported the coexistence and tolerance regardless of ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural or other differences. We tried to express solidarity, peace and understanding in the values of identities shared with diversities and with a strong will to reconstruct progressive ideas of democratisation, decentralisation, regionalism, tolerance, human rights, minority rights, EU integration process.

A bit of history is necessary to put into the right context all my work, and the work of the Association of the Local Democracy Agencies – the European Association for Local Democracy. What do we mean by local governance? Who are the stakeholders of the choices and the manager of the power? Who benefit from it? Being a young country eager to catch up with a bad decade as a black hole that destroyed our lives, we are keen to start again from the bottom and to put the pieces at the right place. I consider – on the behalf of the region Istria and ALDA, that I have the honour to chair – that empowered local and regional authorities, self-governments in close cooperation with civil society, with the active participation of citizens, are the basis for a healthy and sustainable community. More local democracy ← 19 | 20 → means more democracy as a whole. And these are not empty slogans but real facts that helped Istria and many other areas in the Balkans to overcome difficulties. In front of us we had a successful model we felt very close to, the European Union project. It was just there, beyond the border: so close to us, so similar to us. Despite the difficulties of today, mainly due to a very broad international and global crisis, the European Union and its struggle for common governance enshrined in the values of democracy, human rights, rule of law and respect of diversity, is guiding us for stabilizing peace and consolidate sustainable development. We must not stop it because the protection of peace is the main added value and we know the importance of it.

The role of citizens is essential. Local authorities and local governances are empty boxes without content. We all need motivated men and women, responsible and caring for their community. This is what we call “social capital”. What are economic development and progress of technology, the big industry and the financial business, what does it leave in the lives of citizens, if this is not accompanied by a community of people who care, we feel respectful and useful to each other. Success in economy and growth are meaningless, if we can’t share them with others in a peaceful community, where the citizens are safe, protected and participative.

Today, all of us, Europeans and far beyond, are hit with global challenges: unemployment, movement of populations, risks for health, poverty and unfair development, environmental risks. I am convinced that a tool to address these global challenges properly also lies in the possibility for local communities to work with citizens and identify common, innovative and appropriate solutions. Local democracy develops a sense of responsibility and appropriate solutions, which certainly change everyone’s life.

ALDA is a fantastic instrument in the hands of its members and its partners as key European stakeholders. It is a unique international organisation that brings together and works together with citizens, NGOs, local and regional authorities. It translates into practice what I mentioned above and every day, with examples, practices and initiatives, it gives the possibility to local and regional authorities to work with citizens. It creates opportunities for improving the role and awareness of the citizens and develops instruments and tools for a better cooperation. The Local Democracy Agencies, which I have been working with in Croatia (and Istria), have been – after the dark days of the war and the first post war period – one of the first international presence around us. They represented key actors of city to city democracy giving the possibility to “touch” and experience “European” values of local democracy and community development, through the partners of the LDAs. Their activities have never stopped and were even reinforced by the presence of ALDA, the umbrella organisation, that was created ← 20 | 21 → in 1999. Since then, the Association of the Local Democracy Agencies has accompanied the difficult reconstruction of South Eastern Europe, giving opportunities to local authorities and citizens to work on their “disrupted” communities. Their actions were able to rebuild, piece by piece and day by day, part of the social trust, totally swept away by the horrors and the hardship of the wars. In 2003, the LDAs turned a new page and accompanied the vision proposed by the European Union: “Europe will not be complete if it does not include the Balkans” and all together, we started a long process for including, with all standards and values, South Eastern European countries in the European Union family. For Croatia, the achievement is there and it is a great one. We expect, certainly, with ALDA and the LDAs in Croatia, now operational partners, to accompany the process for all the countries of the region.

ALDA and the LDAs are, however, not a success per se. They represent, indeed, the success of a methodology, which is based on local democracy and local governance to rebuild a society and to stabilise democratic rules and fight against discrimination, corruption and lack of solidarity. It includes not only a local development dimension, which is – of course – very important, but it links, without any doubt, local development to local democracy, stating that the former cannot exist without the latter.

Through these pages, we will encounter many experiences, mostly from our ALDA and LDAs network. Many will not be dealing with this at all. But all will share the same approach to things and to community development and governance. We will address opportunities and difficulties of these possibilities. Certainly, as far as I am concerned, I do not have any doubts because I can live it every day: citizen participation at a local level is guarantee for a better and stronger community.

← 21 | 22 → Jean Marc ROIRANT

Chairman of the European Alliance for the European Year of Citizens 2013

Against the backdrop of austerity measures and facing some institutional slippages which put into question, and sometimes in danger, the democratic values and liberties which are the very pillars of the European building process, enshrined as such by the treaties, the public support to the European venture is dramatically declining.

Over the years, the member states have ceded to the European level increasing areas of their national competences. It is now important for these transfers of competences to be accompanied by equivalent transfers of democracy. In other words, the elected representatives, the MEPs, must be able to exercise effective control over the European executive and European civil society must be consulted, involved and heard. Judging from the growing gap between EU institutions and European public opinion, this is far from being the case today.

The triumph of inter-governmentalism on key fields of the European building process shows that our political leaders dramatically lack of collective vision and perspective for a common future, putting national self-interest ahead the European project.

The lessons that repeatedly come out of citizens’ reactions to the way politicians are responding to the current crisis are that Europe needs to change its course towards an economic and social model based on citizenship as the matrix of indivisible social, civic and political rights; a Europe able to cooperate in the building of a challenging, but inevitable common destiny.

Besides the high ideals that have been strived for over the years, it is in its day-to-day experience that European citizenship must constantly renew itself and assert its relevance. Moreover, facing the current uncertainties and difficult times, we need to reinforce our democratic processes if we want to avoid public action loosing legitimacy at all levels.

A genuine civil dialogue at local, national and European level, meaning the setting up of specific deliberative spaces aimed at giving voice and confronting different kind of opinions stemming from civil society before the decision is made by public authorities, is certainly a core element within the construction of an active and participatory European citizenship.

← 22 | 23 → Civil society organisations across Europe give practical substance to this idea of citizenship through the voluntary engagement of citizens putting their values, skills and experiences together to contribute to the common good. They set the ground for the emergence of an open, inclusive and crowded European public arena, a public space where everyone can play a role, can exercise their rights and responsibilities, can feel themselves as European citizens belonging to a European community.

Their action is not meant as a substitute to state responsibility but to nourish the public sphere with grassroots experience and expertise. Institutions have to recognise their role and to support their initiatives. Unfortunately, in many European countries and even at transnational level, this is not the case today.

In many countries, legal or economic obstacles stand in the way of organised civil society. Negative ideological campaigns are sometimes used to attack both associations and the social rights and actors they defend and represent. In other countries social and civil dialogue is still possible, but with more and more limited outreach and scope.

This situation not only has a negative influence on citizens’ understanding of the issues having an impact on their present and future, but it often leads to nationalistic drifts and feeds racism and intolerance. On the contrary, our societies need social and territorial cohesion, as well as European solidarity, so that Europe remains the framework of a shared destiny.

Institutional recognition of the role of organised civil society is also an issue at stake at the EU level. It is not an aim per se, but a way of putting citizens and social cohesion at the heart of the European perspective. A broad coalition of associations and NGOs gathered together on the occasion of the European year of citizens 2013 to work towards giving European citizenship its full meaning and scope by taking into account the new prospects opened up by article 11 of the Lisbon treaty on citizens’ participation in the democratic life of the European Union.

We consider that the concept of citizenship encompasses a two-way relationship between a community and its members and work for citizenship to become a transversal dimension of European policies and a key priority in all areas of Union action.

The Lisbon treaty provides a broad framework for the development of European citizenship rooted in a “community of values”, and reinforces its social and political dimension by giving to the Charter of Fundamental Rights the same legal value as the European Union treaties and by creating the conditions for citizens and civil society organisations to be fully involved in the European processes.

← 23 | 24 → From this perspective, the European Year of Citizens 2013 Alliance – EYCA, which counts ALDA as an active member, aimed at voicing strong political messages of key actors of civil society suffering too often from a lack of recognition by the institutions at local, national and European level of their social role and of the relevance of their participation in a civil dialogue which still remains to be built.

The Alliance, gathering about sixty European networks composed of more than 3,500 national organisations across all EU countries and beyond worked throughout this year to give meaningful substance to its vision of citizenship expressed within the EYCA Manifesto.1 Our work is based on a thematic approach and the European and national member organisations fed the debate on three main topics. The first one is related to article 11 of the Lisbon treaty, which poses the principle of participatory democracy: what does it mean, what civil dialogue mechanisms are needed to put this principle into practice, when exactly should the citizens and their associations be involved within the decision shaping process? The second topic refers to the relation between civic and social rights: how can we expect citizens to exercise their civic and political rights when access to social rights is often not guaranteed for all EU citizens, when unemployment and poverty are dramatically increasing across Europe? The third topic is related to the rights to mobility, with a special focus on the idea of citizenship of residence, a longstanding issue acclaimed by numerous civil society organisations and which could now find an echo on the European agenda.

This ambitious and unprecedented collective mobilisation during the celebration of a European Year definitely contributed to put the spotlight on key political questions related to the future of Europe and bring the European debate at the national and local level so as to reach a certain public often remote from the major European challenges. Looking ahead to the forthcoming European elections, which are an important pooling to measure the citizens’ affection, or rather disaffection towards the European project, the stakes could not be higher!

In 2014, the Alliance for the European Year of Citizens continues its activities from Recommendations to Implementation. The full range of recommendations is presented in this publication. Read them! Endorse them! Implement them!


1 http://ey2013-alliance.eu/manifesto/.

← 24 | 25 → CHAPTER 1

Objectives of This Volume

1.1. From a Representative Democracy to a Participative Democracy: Practices and Evaluation

Participative democracy – challenging representative democracy – is certainly not a new concept. On the other hand, we did not fully field-tested yet and analysed the implication of its implementation. Where do we put the limits to it? Can that replace fully representative democracy? With which methods should it cooperate with the elected representatives? Politicians, understood as decision makers, are considered to be the counterpart of the action of “participative” citizens that would try to influence them towards better decision for the community. However, we also have the understanding that not all the elements of the questions are clear and transparent. The examples of movements which are outside the usual political representation lines – as it appears in many European countries and as it will certainly be for the election of the European Parliament in 2014 – show that a different role for citizens’ participation is possible. Even if at this stage we do not know exactly how it will look like.

It is indeed time to shape a new form of decision-making. Europe could play a peculiar role as political laboratory as it has been several times since the beginning of a more united Europe. The old forms of politics, attributing a cheque en blanc to the political and “skilled” élite is no more possible. In the first months of 2014, we find ourselves right in the middle of this crisis. Citizens do not feel they have enough preserved rights and means to address the challenges, even though they might have all necessary information. The world is infinitely small and instruments like blogs and on line consultations are already replacing some of the old mechanisms of consultations and representation.

During these months, the different facets of a global crisis in Europe showed its impact. It affects economy and institutions and it demands a response at the national and European level. It is not a short-term process. Europeans need an answer to the actions that put many of them under pressure for their present and future. What is the answer Europe gives to it? It is time for a vision, which is probably not enough following the usual line of bureaucracy and day to day politically correct business. We need decisions – some of them might not please everyone and ← 25 | 26 → every state. This is an exercise of society visioning citizens in Europe could contribute to.

1.2. What is the Added Value of the Citizen Participation Practices Put in Place in the Last Years?

In the last ten years at least, new forms of consultations and engagement of citizens interacting with decision makers have been put in place. It goes from consultative bodies to more binding partnerships with individuals and their associations. In many fields and for many topics, instruments have been used to reach citizens that usually could not be included, through citizens’ panels for instance (as further described). Furthermore and in particular at the local level, committees of citizens are interacting on several issues with the elected representatives and mobilise themselves to influence the decision making process.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
good governance development citizenship
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 394 pp., 30 ill., 21 tables

Biographical notes

Antonella Valmorbida (Volume editor)

Antonella Valmorbida is the Director of ALDA since its establishment in 1999. She has been working for over twenty years promoting citizens’ participation and local democracy in the enlarged Europe. Mrs Valmorbida is involved in most the European networks dealing with multilateral governance and local democracy, and a constant partner of the European institutions and of the Council of Europe on the matter. She is lecturing at the University of Padua, Italy, on decentralised cooperation.


Title: Citizens’ participation at the local level in Europe and Neighbouring Countries
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394 pages