A New Right for Democracy and Development in Europe

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)

by Giampiero Bordino (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 130 Pages
Series: Federalism, Volume 5


This volume analyses the problems and instruments of European citizens’ political participation and focuses in particular on the «European Citizens’ Initiative» (ECI) right. Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the ECI enables European citizens to propose legislative measures to the Commission by collecting one million signatures in at least seven EU countries. The European federalists were the first to initiate one of the most important applications of this instrument with their proposal for a «European Special Plan for Sustainable Development», aimed at addressing the ongoing serious economic and social crisis.
The essays collected in this volume by authors from different disciplines, backgrounds and nationalities offer reflections on citizenship rights and themes relating to the European crisis, as well as on the necessary steps to revive development in Europe. The informative and functional documentation proposed in the Appendix constitutes a user manual for the potential and concrete application of this new right by European citizens and their various associations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Premise
  • Part One. On The Forms of Participatory Democracy in Europe
  • Introduction. Citizenship and Participatory Democracy in Europe. The European Citizens’ Initiative Right
  • The Right for European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) and Participatory Democracy in the European Union: A New Post-National Practice?
  • Direct Democracy: Driving Force for a New Political Federal Culture?
  • The European Citizens’ Initiative. A New Era for Democratic Politics in the EU
  • The European Citizens’ Initiative: A Great Responsibility for Federalists
  • The European People for a Europe 2.0
  • Refocusing Europe on Growth and Employment. The Citizens’ Initiative for an Extraordinary European Plan
  • Part Two. The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI): A New Right for Democracy and Development in Europe
  • Introduction. The European Citizens’ Initiative for a European Special Plan for Sustainable Development
  • A European Development Plan to Emerge from the Crisis
  • For a European Sustainable Development Plan
  • Desirable Effects of a European Plan for Sustainable Development
  • A Citizens Initiative for a European Green New Deal
  • Afterword
  • Appendix
  • European Citizens’ Initiative
  • Federal Union Now!
  • The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Procedural Guidelines
  • Authors

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Antonio Padoa SCHIOPPA

Five years into the financial and economic crisis that spread from the United States to Europe has brought to the surface the underlying problems in the monetary union. It was very clear from the outset to at least some of the founding fathers of the single currency that the Euro might face difficulties without the counterweight of a central power for governing the economy. But in 1992 it was not possible to overcome particularly France’s reluctance to take that further step, giving the Union a fiscal power and a governing power at the same supranational level as the European currency.

Now, owing to the recession, this necessity has come to the fore through the inexorable force of facts. The measures taken over the last three years by the governments of the Union, guided by the German government, has brought about a drastic revising of the permissive criteria that had allowed many countries to let their public debt grow, thereby laying open the weaker links in the chain to market speculation in the absence of a common guarantee against default. And yet, despite adopting measures severely limiting the sovereignty of nations over their budgets, the crisis has not passed. Applying stringent austerity measures without accompanying anti-cyclical policies to support the economy and development has led to a recessionary spiral from which no exit can be seen.

This has resulted in a growing awareness that it is necessary to raise our sights. The Eurozone (including countries on the verge of entering and those wanting to) must provide itself with the proper tools for Europe-wide governing, overcoming the ineffective bottlenecks of the intergovernmental method, in too many cases conditioned by the requisite for unanimity. At the same time, it is inconceivable to have a common economic policy, inclusive of fiscal powers and a European treasury, determined solely by the governments and without being given legitimacy from the ground. Modern parliaments were initially created to control public spending, gaining the power to vote on taxes; Europe ushered in modern democracies and has now written democracy into its Charter, from which there is no turning back. The same governments, beginning with Germany’s, more and more frequently refer to the irreplaceable role of the European Parliament, the only one legitimised at supranational level by the people’s vote. Unfortunately it is the European Parliament itself ← 9 | 10 → that has proved unaware of its potential power by firmly establishing the substantially constituent power it should have and which, in the past, it was able to exercise under the farsighted impulse of Altiero Spinelli. But the process of the institutional rethinking of the Union is under way.

However, there is another way, complementary to that of the representative democracy that is still so imperfect in Europe. This is the way of direct democracy, in a form compatible with the spirit of the Union. In Article 11 TEU (Treaty on European Union), the Lisbon Treaty made provision for institutionalising this process, allowing for proposals to be put forward, even though only within the regulatory framework of the existing treaties. With signatures from at least a million citizens, coming from at least seven countries of the Union, proposals for reform can be submitted to the European Commission which could form the basis for the Union’s regulations.

This is an important instrument which can also answer deeper needs and cover ever more evident deficiencies of modern democracies in the era of the media: since the power of money is proving – paradoxically – increasingly invasive in the formation of popular sovereignty, it is necessary to identify alternative and complementary routes to reveal the requirements and needs of the community that the political classes and the dominant forces of the economy would otherwise leave hidden.

Of course, collecting a million signatures in so many different countries is no easy feat. And it is even less so when the request concerns underlying themes, complex situations to resolve, and not questions of immediate media and emotional impact. However, precisely the severity of the current recession, with the dramatic consequences now affecting everyone in terms of employment and general and individual wellbeing, with the alarming problem of growing unemployment especially among the young, can bring about the consensus necessary to launch an ambitious proposal. The Union, above all the Eurozone, should provide itself with the tools necessary for a major plan for the economy’s sustainable development. The necessarily austere budgets of the individual member countries preclude the affordability of investments, but such investments are certainly feasible at European level with the proceeds of its own resources and with a modest share of common debt, while still maintaining a balance in the EU budget. The fundamental principle of subsidiarity must operate in such a way that some choices – for example, on energy, on investments for research, on advanced technology, on the environmental policy, on the future of the common security and defence policy – are decided and implemented at European level which is the only level able to respond adequately in situations where the national level is unable to take action. Far from the national sovereignty limits that, in practice, no longer exist, supranational actions ← 10 | 11 → allow the recovery of a power of choice and of governing that would otherwise be lost.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (April)
Initiative people right referendum direct democracy
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 130 pp., 4 tables, 1 graph

Biographical notes

Giampiero Bordino (Volume editor)

Giampiero Bordino has published historical essays and manuals, in particular on contemporary history. He is member of the Einstein Center for International Studies (CESI) in Turin and a member of the editorial staff of and contributor to the review The Federalist Debate. He writes about issues relating to European unity, supranational federalism and the globalisation process.


Title: A New Right for Democracy and Development in Europe
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132 pages