Liverpool Conference Broadens Vision for EU Participatory Democracy Beyond the ECI

May 24, 2016 News

Although ECI reform is currently being blocked by the European Commission and Council, the ECI’s successes in creating new transnational movements, raising awareness of important issues and engaging ordinary citizens in EU policies have shown that EU participatory democracy is not only possible but necessary to the EU’s survival. However, as long as participatory democracy is limited to the ECI, it will be easy for EU elites to crush. This is why The ECI Campaign co-convened a conference to explore diverse approaches to and involve new actors in creating a citizen’s Europe.

Democratic Participation in a Citizen’s Europe: What Next for the EU? was held on 5 May 2016 in Liverpool, UK and organised by The ECI Campaign, the University of Liverpool, The Democratic Society and media partner Power2People. With the approaching UK referendum on EU membership, this was an especially meaningful moment and place to discuss EU democratic citizen participation.

This conference was unique in that it brought together advocates of direct democracy, deliberative democracy and social movements to collectively reflect on the future of a citizens’ Europe. All concluded that the strengths of diverse approaches need to be recognised and combined.  For instance, social movements help citizens to bring issues to public attention, deliberative methods support citizens to thoughtfully explore policy options and direct democracy tools ensure that citizens can actually impact policy.

This event also drew on the unique strengths of over 60 civil society actors and academic researchers. Passionate, well-informed and wide-ranging discussions took place throughout the day through provocative speeches and in small group discussions and workshops. As Rebecca Baron, Senior Campaigner for WeMove.eu, said “It was so great to hear from many different perspectives and think together about how to collaborate and dream big for the future of the EU”.

The challenge now will be to deepen the conversation and take these ideas forward to make a real impact. We will be disseminating conference learning via a short conference report, a longer edited collection of essays from participants and articles on the www.people2power.info website. We will also seek to capitalise on the positive energy generated by the conference to support new collaborations, projects and partnerships in order to build a broad community of advocates for a citizens’ Europe with strong democratic participation.  Initial ideas for projects include: an EU citizens’ assembly, an ECI with guaranteed impact and a participative constitutional convention for EU treaty change.

We were thrilled by the success of this participatory conference, organised primarily by The ECI Campaign core team members Janice Thomson and James Organ with the generous support of the Citizens for Europe network.  We are already planning follow-up events to capitalise on the conference’s positive momentum.  Stay tuned for news of ways you can join this movement for a true citizen’s Europe!