HOW The lame duck became a dead duck
Here is the sad account of defining ‘participatory rights’ in all the drafts produced by the Convention:
First draft of 28.10.2002 (начален проект)
ARTICLE 34: This article sets out the principle of PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY.
The Institutions are to ensure a high level of openness, permitting citizens' organizations of all kinds
to play a full part in the Union's affairs.
The second draft of 02.04.2003 “specified” the “principle of participatory democracy” as a “right to participate”. Mere tautology, thank you.
Article 34: The principle of participatory democracy
1. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union.
2. The Union institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their opinions on all areas of Union action.
3. The Union institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
No specific participatory rights are defined, voting for deputies of the European Parliament remaining the only act of direct civic participation in decision-making.
But that seemed too much to someone so in the third draft of 28.05.2003 even that meager ‘right to participate’ vanished without any comments or explanation:
Article I-46: The principle of participatory democracy
1. The Union Institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views on all areas of Union action.
2. The Union Institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
3. The Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
Finaly the “participatory democracy” granted by the “founding fathers” melted to ‘participation’ ONLY in “exchange of views”, “dialogue” and “consultations”… NOT in deciding.
But in the last draft of 12.06.2003, what a surprise, we gоt a “sweet” – not to worry and be happy:
Article I-46: The principle of participatory democracy
The Union Institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the
opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views on all areas of Union action.
The Union Institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative
associations and civil society.
3. The Commission shall carry out broad prior consultations with parties concerned in order to
ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
4. A significant number of citizens, no less than one million, coming from a significant number
of Member States may invite the Commission to submit any appropriate proposal on matters
where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing this Constitution. A European law shall determine the provisions for the specific procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' request.
All that stingy ‘trimming’ and ‘re-trimming’ took place after 25 members of the Convention had proposed a formula of stronger and actually real civic participation:
ART 34 EUROPEAN CITIZENS' LEGISLATION
1. European citizens’ legislation
The citizens of Europe have the right to participate in the legislative activity of the European Union by means of the European Citizens Legislative Initiative and the European Citizens Referendum.
Constitutional amendments decided on by the relevant organs of the European Union have to be submitted to the citizens of Europe for approval in a referendum.
2. Further requirements
Further provisions that particularly regulate the specific procedures, the numbers of signatures that have to be gathered and the majority requirements are to be laid down in an institutional act.
Notes and Appendices
The effect of the above proposals is to bring Europe closer to the people, as Laeken recommended. It represents a large step in the democratization of the Union. It undoubtedly enhances the role of the European citizen in shaping the future of the European Union. The Constitution will only govern the basic rights and instruments. Further procedures have to be laid down in a European law. The idea of the European Citizens’ Legislative Initiative is that the citizens can present a law proposal to the relevant organs of the European Union. These organs have then to decide whether they will adopt the proposal or not. If the organs don't adopt the proposal, then a binding referendum on the proposed law or proposed framework law must take place. Fair and balanced information on the issues must be provided to the electorate.
We also propose to create a European Citizens’ Legislative Submission which would extend the existing right of petition to a right of the citizens to present legislative proposals to the relevant organs of the EU. They have then to decide whether legislative action will be taken or not.
It is very important that the thresholds for the signatures that are to be gathered for the European Citizens’ Legislative Initiative and the European Citizens’ Legislative Submission are not too high. High thresholds interfere with the process and effectively allow only powerful organizations the possibility of securing the required signatures. Based on experiences with citizen lawmaking in many European countries and in other countries of the world we propose that the number of signatures for the European Citizens’ Legislative Submission should not exceed 300,000-500,000; and for the European Citizens’ Legislative Initiative should not exceed 3,000,000-5,000,000.
· William Abitbol, MEP
· Alexandar Arabadjiev, Bulgarian parliament
· Josep Borrell Fontelles, Spanish parliament
· Necdet Budak, Turkish parliament
· Carlos Carnero González, MEP
· Caspar Einem, Austrian parliament
· John Gormley, Irish parliament
· Giorgos Katiforis, Greek government
· Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, MEP
· Peeter Kreitzberg, Estonian parliament
· Evelin Lichtenberger, Austrian parliament
· Neil MacCormick, MEP
· Lord MacLennan of Rogart, UK parliament
· Eleni Mavrou, Cypriotic parliament
· Jürgen Meyer, German parliament
· Marie Nagy, Belgian parliament
· Adrian Severin, Romanian parliament
· Anne-Marie Sigmund, Economic and Social Committee
· Evripidis Stilianidis, Greek parliament
· The Earl of Stockton, MEP
· Frans Timmermans, Dutch parliament
· Pál Vastagh, Hungarian parliament
· George Vella, Maltese parliament
· Johannes Voggenhuber, MEP
How easy they were ignored… Instead of real rights we got crumbs, in fact an illusion of participation was granted to us in the final Draft - nameley - a “right” to BEG the Commission, not even the Parliament, to “submit” our proposals to the deciding bodies of the Union. IF the clerks there found them “appropriate”. };o)
What can we add to that sad story – the lame duck became a dead duck – a humble campaign gets a humble reward. We do not want to underestimate the efforts of all civic activists in Brussels but we should be aware that a handful of NGOs CANNOT make difference in the big power game.
Perhaps the only ‘good news’ after that Convention is the death of the illusion that real civic power can be gained by NGO lobbying.
Civic Participation Society, Sofia