From the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis, the State of the Art
As Europe struggles with the most profound economic and social crises in recent history, what happens to the promises of freedom, democracy, equality and respect for the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person proclaimed in the Preamble of the Treaty on European Union? How does the European Union intend to demonstrate its commitment to fundamental social rights at a time of widespread deregulation and an increasingly precarious labour market? How can we further enhance the democratic and efficient functioning of European institutions when there is a growing distance between citizens and political elites?
This publication is based on papers given at the international conference «Citizenship and Solidarity in the European Union – from the Charter of Fundamental Rights to the Crisis: The State of the Art», which took place in the School of Law at the University of Minho, Portugal, in May 2012. The line-up of contributors includes scholars from southern and northern Europe and Brazil, and together the papers constitute a lively and productive debate about the future of Europe.
Citizens’ Legislative Initiative and Citizenship of Rights (Teresa Freixes)
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
The debate about the relations between civil society and parliaments is at the core of the establishment of new bodies of participation in most current states. The participation of civil society in the legislative procedure is a major goal that must be accomplished in the next few years.
This debate is not new in the political science and European legal theory. In ancient Greece, citizens’ assemblies played an important role in the adoption of decisions. However, it arose mainly from the debates that took place in the elaboration of constitutions, such as the American in 17872 or the French3 of the revolutionary period 1978–91,4 when full scope was given to citizens’ participation in the legislative procedure.
At the time, the discussion was mainly about the difference between representative democracy and direct democracy. Representative democracy implies the election of representatives who are given power to decide (by being granted a mandate). This mandate can be mandatory, in cases ← 29 | 30 → where the citizens can guide the decision that the representative has to take, or, once elected, the representative can decide freely, whereby it then becomes a representative mandate. This latter idea was the one that finally got imposed and adopted in almost every European country, making the representative’s will the maximum authority.
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