Europe: Project and Process

Citizens, Democracy, Participation

by Susana del Río Villar (Author)
©2014 Monographs 180 Pages
Series: Cuadernos de Yuste, Volume 9


With this book the author wants to convey the relevance of two vectors that are part of the European integration and the EU’s personality: the value to be both project and process. The key themes of the book are European supranational democracy; the participation of the civil society in the EU; the interaction between European citizens and the European institutions; education as a key element of active citizenship; solidarity, participation, and communication «in European»; and the necessary formulation of what Dr. Susana del Rio calls: a new European politics, where a shared responsibility is fundamental to the achievement of a quality European democracy. The author emphasizes that, to restore public credibility in politics, representative democracy has to lead the way, as representative democracy is complemented by participatory democracy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents
  • Prefaces
  • José Antonio Monago, President of the Board of Trustees of the European Academy of Yuste Foundation and President of the Government of Extremadura
  • Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, Secretary of State for the European Union. Government of Spain
  • Jaume Duch Guillot, Director for Media and Spokesman. European Parliament
  • Frans de Ruiter, President of the European House for Culture, (Brussels); Kathrin Deventer, Chair of the Working Group on Audience Participation of the European Access to Culture Platform; Miguel Ángel Martín Ramos, Spokesperson of the European Access to Culture Platform
  • First part: Project and process. Analysis of a key stage that establishes the model in the European project and in its process
  • Chapter 1. A Convention to draft the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Proposals from Civil Society
  • 1.1. Introduction: The Charter of Fundamental Rights within the Framework of the IGC 2000, the Dialogue on Europe and the Treaty of Nice
  • 1.2. Towards a Charter of Fundamental Rights for Europe: A Milestone – The Convention
  • 1.3. The Public Debate with Civil Society and with Non-Governmental Organizations During the Charter’s Drafting Process
  • 1.4. The Permanent Forum of Civil Society: Proposals
  • 1.4.1. Dignity
  • 1.4.2. Liberty
  • 1.4.3. Equality
  • 1.4.4. Solidarity
  • Conclusions: The Charter of Fundamental Rights for Europe – The Proposals of NGOs: The Establishment of a Precedent in the Process
  • Chapter 2. The Convention and the Draft European Constitution: The Initiation of a Constituent Process
  • 2.1. Introduction: The European Convention, a Brave Initiative
  • 2.2. The Treaty of Nice, the Declaration of Laeken and the Antecedents to the Constitutional Debate
  • 2.3. Civil Society: Proposals for a Convention Method
  • 2.4. The Convention: An innovative Body Centred on Public Debate, Democracy and Transparency
  • 2.5. The Forum: Interface Between Civil Society, Organisations and the Convention
  • 2.6. Civil Society Contact Groups and their Proposals to the Convention: Social Sector, Environment, Academia, Citizens and Institutions, Regions and Local Authorities, Human Rights, Development and Culture
  • 2.7. Civil Society in the Listening and Reflection Phases – New Synergies: Participatory Democracy, Civil Dialogue, Horizontal Subsidiarity and Solidarity
  • 2.8. Contributions from Civil Society to the Preliminary Draft Constitutional Treaty
  • 2.9. Comments Made by Civil Society Platforms and Movements Regarding the Preliminary Draft Constitutional Treaty and how they are Reflected in the European Constitution
  • Conclusions: Participation of Civil Society and Democratisation of the Policy Creation Process: Overcoming the Intergovernmental System and the Initiation of a Participatory Method
  • Second part: Citizens, democracy, participation. Communication as a European Legitimising Resource
  • Chapter 3. European Citizenship: Participation and Communication for a New Way of Engaging in Politics
  • 3.1. Introduction: The Axes that form the Basis of a New Type of European Politics
  • 3.2. New Spaces and Online Resources
  • 3.3. The Communicative Creativity of Institutions
  • 3.4. Projects Promoting European Public Areas
  • 3.5. 2009 Elections to the European Parliament
  • 3.6. The Message of National Political Parties for the European Elections
  • 3.7. From a European Model of Debate to a European Communication Policy
  • Conclusions: Citizens Who Are Responsible and Promote Integration
  • Chapter 4. Concrete Results that Establish a Tendency
  • 4.1. Introduction: Where Are We? Where Are We Going to?
  • 4.2. European Integral Communication
  • 4.3. 2002-2012: The European Citizens’ Initiative Process
  • 4.4. Reset Europe
  • 4.5. Integration in the EU: Recovering the “Great Politics” and Communicating it
  • 4.6. Europe Votes for Europe: 2014, Elections to the European Parliament
  • Epilogue
  • Europe Now

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European Citizenship: The Driving Force Behind Europe

José Antonio Monago Terraza

President of the Board of Trustees of the European Academy of Yuste Foundation
President of the Government of Extremadura

European citizenship is, without a doubt, one of the key concepts in the European construction process. It is a process that we have seen develop slowly, successfully and which has gained force exponentially from the moment it was set in motion with the approval of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

The creation of this concept, for which many had already fought, can be considered one of the greatest milestones in European integration. It is a concept implicit in the very origin of the European Communities because, as stated by one of Europe’s founding fathers, Jean Monnet, with the European Union “no coaligamos Estados, unimos personas” [“We are not uniting states, we are uniting people”]. Today, this idea is an achievement and at the same time, a right that can be fully enjoyed by citizens of all member States of the European Union.

European citizenship has been an enormous help in toppling old divisive frontiers of both a Geographic and social nature. Even though the process has been a complex one, thanks to it, European citizens can not only circulate, reside, study or work freely in EU territory or obtain legal assistance if their rights as citizens are not respected, but we have also gained a participation process in democratic life that affects all Europeans. The rights that European citizenship gives us therefore go beyond the biggest challenges that it entails.

However, if the concept of citizenship has given us anything, it is the possibility of participating and being active in a unique and democratic process not seen before in our history. The possibility of participating and being active has in the last few decades been converted into a right and a recognised obligation for the common good.

← 17 | 18 →

For this to happen, we have the tools that allow us, as citizens, to not only receive detailed information immediately, but also to use this information to share it, build debates around it within the public sphere, or even use it to make decisions. The first step in order to develop European citizenship is to be cognizant of these tools that we, as Europeans, have at our disposal.

This is the aim of this book in which Dr Susana del Río rigorously analyses the project and process of the Europe of the last few years which has laid the groundwork for the development of an active and participatory European citizenship within the European context. Through the reading of this book, we will not only be able to become aware of the fundamental processes that have made it possible and the role that the different actors have played, but also, in the same way, delve into the very concept of European citizenship and in the possibilities of participation that this offers by means of very diverse channels. This knowledge is the objective proposed 22 years ago by the Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste which is sponsoring this book and which we continue deepening with publications such as this one.

Extremadura, the Spanish region in the south of Europe over which I have the honour of presiding, is perhaps exceptional in its pro-Europe consciousness. People from this region have broad and first-hand experience of what Europe has meant for Extremadura but also what Extremadura can and must mean to Europe.

We are at a crucial moment in which, if we know how to furnish ourselves with the right tools, we can maintain the European Union as a reference of freedom and democracy through civic participation.

The Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste hopes that this book will help us to deepen our knowledge of this European process and project, to continue walking steadily towards the future.

For this, I would like to thank EUCA (European University College Association), the European Platform on Access to Culture, and the European Commission through the Europe for Citizens European Programme, for their involvement which has made the publication of Dr Susana del Río’s book possible and whom I would like to thank for her trust in the Fundación Academia Europea de Yuste so that the result of years of research, study and effort could be published.

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Secretary of State for the European Union
Government of Spain

When Susana del Río called me to ask me to write a prologue for this book, I did not have to think about it for very long. Though I still had not read it and did not know what the book was about, I did know Susana very well. In all the years that I have been devoted to European politics, I have not met a more convinced, enthusiastic, hard-working pro-European with a greater vocation for serving the European cause. If all Europeans had at least a bit of the enthusiasm that Susana irradiates, the European construction process would have been concluded a long time ago. I therefore wish to take this opportunity offered to me not only to thank her for her extremely friendly invitation but also to express my gratitude for her pro-Europe efforts all these years.

Susana’s book makes reference to an aspect of the European Project that cannot be more in vogue. When the European Year of Citizens ends and the next European Elections are held, the publication of this book will be most appropriate given that it centres on democratic participation and citizenship in the European Union.

Last year coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of EU citizenship. When the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993, its article 2 proclaimed: “reforzar la protección de los derechos e intereses de los nacionales de sus Estados miembros, mediante la creación de una ciudadanía de la Unión” [Reinforce the protection of the rights and interests of nationals of their member States through the creation of a Union citizenship]. This concept had a double intention. On the one hand, it placed citizenship at the centre of European construction to overcome the so-called “déficit democrático” of the Union, a commonly used concept then. Though the EU overcame that deficit a long time ago, especially since the European Parliament colegislates on equal terms with the Council, there are still those who state that Brussels draws up legislation without taking into account its citizens – an affirmation which is both false and ill-willed. On the other hand, this concept permits the entry of politics with capital letters into Europe from this moment on. Until then, the first Communities followed a path that was essentially economic. There was a lot of market, a lot of common external tariffs, a lot of customs union, but little politics… In the Treaty of Maastricht, article 6.1 does not leave room for doubt: “la Unión se basa en los ← 19 | 20 → principios de libertad, democracia, respeto de los Derechos Humanos y de las Libertades Fundamentales y el Estado de Derecho, principios que son comunes a los Estados miembros”. [the Union is based on the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for the Rule of Law, principles that are common to all member States.] This article proclaims the political character of the Union and sends out a clear message to Europeans: the Union is more than a market, the Union is a political project and the citizen is within the nucleus of this project.

This idea is reinforced later at two historic moments of the European Union in which I had the honour of participating as president of the European Parliament delegation and which are broadly dealt with in two of the chapters of this book: the Convention that drafted the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Convention that drafted the Constitutional Treaty, predecessor to the Treaty of Lisbon. The modus operandi of a Convention is to have an open and participatory forum of debate and proposals. Both conventions showed themselves to be the most appropriate system to coalesce different legitimacies and where civil society participation was a determining factor, through mechanisms of permanent contact both with social agents, as well as with NGOs and so on. For this reason, the European Convention included the Treaty of Lisbon as a temporary body with the purpose of steering the normal reform processes of the treaties.

In the European Council of Cologne in June 1999 the heads of State and of Government of the then fifteen member States agreed to draft the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Convention was formed in December 1999 and they spent ten months drafting a short document (3500 words in the English version), precise and legible that not only clarified the community of values that constitute the Union, but also its political character. It is quite a complete catalogue of fundamental rights that incorporate, together with traditional civil and political rights as well as the rights of European citizenship rights, social and economic rights as well. This is an indispensable requirement of the European social and political model, that form an indivisible part – along with the rights to freedom and equality – of the dignity of the person in a democratic society and inseparable from civil and political rights. It was approved in the Council of Biarritz on the 7th December 2000 and incorporated into the Treaty of Lisbon that came into effect on 1st December 2009, with the same legal status as the treaties.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
European integration Supranational democracy Participatory democracy Civil society European citizenship
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 180 pp.

Biographical notes

Susana del Río Villar (Author)

Susana del Río Villar has a BA in History, PhD Cum Laude in Political Science and received the Extraordinary Doctorate Award in Social Sciences and Law. She is a member of the Committee of Independent Experts of the European Commission «Citizens Democracy and Governance» and is author and director of the project «Upgrading Europe». She is also the author of several books and numerous publications on citizenship participation in the EU.


Title: Europe: Project and Process
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