The meetings centered around three highly current political topics: perspectives of European democracy including the EU’s citizens’ consultations, a European participatory budget, and the rule of law in the EU.
The theme of EU democracy was introduced by Daniela Vancic of Democracy International. Democracy International introduced the EU’s citizen’s consultations, an initiative of French President Macron endorsed by the EU and its Member States, from a civil society point of view. Democracy International presented the European Public Sphere project – its own take on consulting citizens. We stressed that we should take part and promote the recently published online consultation, a 12-question survey that was developed by a group of 100 randomly selected citizens, while continuing to promote a bottom-up approach to reaching out to citizens. Because it is unclear what the aim of the ongoing process is, we discussed what a participative and inclusive process that respects democratic principles can look like, including conducting consultations on a regular basis and more involvement of the European Parliament as the only democratically accountable institution of the EU. We also explored other frameworks of a citizens-empowered democracy, including EU referendums, access to information, access to justice related to the infringements of European values, and whistleblower protection. Reform of the treaties was stressed to as the only real way of reaching substantive democratic change, where Democracy International presented its campaign for a new European Convention according to Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The topic of a new European financial framework was introduced by Pier Virgilio Dastoli, President of European Movement Italy. It was discussed that the next multiannual financial framework plan must have a five-year duration, as opposed to the seven-year structure proposed by the Commission and should be founded on the double principle of “no taxation without representation” and “no representation without taxation.” Because EU citizens are currently not stakeholders in the budget, we discussed how a financial framework can be based on participatory democracy and meet citizens’ priorities, such as thematic conventions and hearings organized, citizen’s juries and European Convention before the end of the EU budgetary negotiations, which are expected to go until 2020, and e-democracy consultations on the EU programs.
Lastly on the agenda we discussed a collective defense for the rule of law within EU Member States. European Movement Italy will submit a proposal for a European Citizens’ Initiative and a petition addressed the European Parliament aiming to create an efficient judicial instrument in the framework of the area of freedom, justice and security involving the Court of Justice, the national and European Parliaments, the European Agency of Fundamental Rights and the civil society stakeholders that have a vested interest in the rule of law.
With the clock ticking before the next European elections, the participants of the meeting will become a working group and maintain to meet again in six months. We established that the next steps include the topic of European citizenship in light of an upcoming ECI and EU democracy applied to the reform of the Treaties. Despite the wide range of topics that the organisations each focus on, we all share the overarching goal of using the opportunity of the elections as a way to empower citizens by bringing more democracy to the EU, from financial aspect to participation.