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Direct Democracy Reform

02-12-2021

Direct democracy, alongside representative and participatory democracy, requires a real introduction to kickstart Europe's democratic future. Direct democracy has not yet been truly explored in Europe, due to the restraints of the Lisbon Treaty.

The European Citizens' Initaitive, as the closest instrument Europe has to direct democracy, has a weak politically binding nature. It is, however, the start to the introduction of true citizens' initated democracy. This includes the development of the European Citizens' Initaitive but also the introduction of EU referenda.

Strengthen the ECI 

The European Citizens’ Initiative should be transformed into a more binding instrument of direct democracy by improving its opportunities for follow-up.​ The ECI needs to be developed into a 3-step direct democracy instrument that will be able to trigger a binding European-wide vote on legislative proposals, as well as allow initiatives that require treaty change. 

Step 1: A predetermined number of signatures should be collected in a specified period of time in order for citizens to set the agenda. For example, one million signatures within one year, across member states. 

Step 2: If the EU institutions rejects or does not act within a set timeframe after Step 1, the citizens can being a second collection of signatures with a higher threshold, such as three million signatures. 

Step 3: If Parliament does not adopt the proposal after Step 2, a EU-wide vote will be automatically triggered, where the EU institutions have the possibility to add a counter proposal on the ballot. A double majoirty of the electorate and of the member states is required for the vote to pass. 

Citizens’ initiated Citizens’ Assembly

The EU should introduce a European Citizens’ Initiative which could trigger a randomly-selected, representative European Citizens’ Assembly. If the initiative is successful in reaching the required signatures, for instance 1.5 million signatures from at least 7 member states within one year, the EU would be required to organize a randomly-selected European Citizens’ Assembly on the topic of the initiative within, for example, the next 12 months. 

The results of the Assembly should be submitted to the EU institutions and discussed and voted on in the European Parliament. If the results are not fully or partly adopted within a certain amount of time, such as within 9 months after the Assembly, the initiative has the right to proceed with another round of signature collection and begin with Step 2 of the European Citizens' Initiative process. If this second signature round is also successful, the EU institutions have a final opportunity to adopt the initiative. If no action is taken by the institutions, an EU-wide referendum is automatically triggered, where the EU institutions have the possibility to add a counter proposal on the ballot.

EU Obligatory Referenda

European citizens should have a say on primary law amendments in the European Union. The EU should introduce an obligatory European-wide vote in the case of any changes of the EU Treaty, including after a EU Convention process according to Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty. The requirements for the obligatory referendum to pass could include a majority of the voters and two-thirds majority of the member states. 

EU Citizens’ Veto Right

Citizens should be given the right to reject new EU legislation through a bottom-up, citizen-initiated vote. A citizens’ veto right would stop a legal decision of the EU by allowing citizens to collect signatures and request a EU-wide vote (i.e., a facultative referendum initiated by citizens) to veto the legislation. The requirements for the signature collection could be, for example, 1.5 million signatures from at least three member states within 100 days after a decision is published by the EU institutions. The vote should be held 3-6 months after the initiative is successful, and a double majority, approval by majority of the electorate and majority of the member states, would be required for the veto to be successful.

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