By Johannes W. Pichler
Pre-reflection on the ECI Conference in Vienna, Oct 5th 2012.
For the purpose of enhancing the deficient Union’s legitimacy, the “Convention
on the Future of the EU” dreamt of full direct democracy in the EU as a means
of remedy. More modest assembly members promoted at least a “Principle of
Participatory Democracy”, which was finally enshrined in the “Constitution Treaty”
(Art I 47), but then dissipated along with the disappearance of the high-flying idea of
Then came the disillusioning Lisbon era. Remarkably enough, the participation
articles in the Lisbon Union Treaty’s Art 11 are exactly the same provisions in
substance with perfectly identical wording as those ornate formal “Principles”. Thus,
from a legal-sociological perspective, one could suppose that the concept of a
principle of participatory democracy is still in the current version of the Union Treaty
as well, though not expressively called by this name.
So, purely optimistic dreamers and proponents and communicators who trumpet
the EU participation message expected that any institution and any individual with a
sense of personal responsibility for the constitutional fate of this Union would share
the spirit of democratising the EU and would be eager to optimise the constitutional
provisions and of the constitution’s ideal and that the ECI would be fostered carefully
and empathically. Have “they” been eager? Are “they” been fostering and sheltering
the ECI with empathy? Do they devotedly serve for a Europe of the Citizens, do
We await some criticisms at the Vienna conference and many questions like the
Does the regulation really work in a highly proactive and flourishing way in favor of
attracting the Europeans in their masses and to make them trust that the EU would
hear their real everyday European concerns?
Were the premises the appropriate ones, like that one that the regulation’s
prime task is to prevent any thinkable or just imaginable misuse and to prevent
any “participation waves” that could cause overcapacity and other troubles?
How could it happen, that the EU Commission offers officially an online tool that
turned out to suffer from such serious and disastrous technical dysfunction that it
had to be subjected to a total recall?
Well, this time the EU Commission has shown up with an extraordinary bad
conscience which ends in a moratorium. But what about that? This instrument is
of total unknown legal nature and did not get communicated to the member states.
But it is the MS which has the competence for defining the valid period of signature
gathering. So, are we obliged to inform the initiatives that there is an extraneous
source of concern ahead?
One of the rare first ECIs – by the way, not the “poorest” one, by any means –
simply gave up and withdrew its application, accompanied by the following statement
addressed to the EU Commission:
“The ECI is currently not fit for purpose (…) The ECI currently does not work and the
effort of making it work detracts from the ability to successfully campaign (…) “.
Nothing to add to that?
Lets find out in Vienna, frankly, openly and honestly.
Conference: “Assessment of the European Citizens’ Initiative”
Time: Friday, 05 October 2012, 09:00-18:00
Place: Großer Vortragssaal, Interior Ministry of Austria, Minoritenplatz 9, Vienna
Language: English (with limited German translation)
Registration/Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Office: +43 662-43980; Mobile: +43-650-5154370
Media representatives are kindly invited! Photo opportunities in the breaks and during discussions,
interview opportunities in the breaks at 12:30 and 16:00.
Agenda and more information at http://www.legalpolicy.eu/#!vstc5=eci-link
Johannes W. Pichler is Professor of European Legal Development at the University of Graz, Austria, and Director of the Austrian Institute of Legal Policy in Salzburg.Blogactiv Team