EESC opinion: The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty: participatory democracy and the citizens' initiative (Article 11)

1.Conclusions and Recommendations

1.1. The Committee considers that the provisions of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) on the democratic principles of the Union, in particular Article 11, are a milestone on the road to a people's Europe that is real and feasible, where the public has genuine influence. However, the individual democratic processes need to be defined in such a way as to make them more binding and ensure they are backed up by the necessary structures.

1.2.  With regard to horizontal civil dialogue (TEU Article 11(1)) and vertical civil dialogue (TEU Article 11(2)), the Committee calls for a clear definition of this instrument and rules governing its procedures and participants. It encourages the Commission – by analogy with the approach set out in TEU Article 11(4) – to begin a consultation process on civil dialogue by publishing a Green Paper and to put in place the necessary arrangements on the basis of the outcome.

1.3. The Committee underscores its willingness, expressed several times in the past, to contribute to the development of civil dialogue as a partner and intermediary and to build on its role as a forum for debate. The Committee is placing its network and infrastructure at the disposal of all EU bodies with a view to supporting civil dialogue with civil society organisations.

1.4. Article 11(3) of the TEU puts the Commission's practice of consultation, already employed extensively to date, in the context of the newly-strengthened participatory pillar of the European democratic model. For this instrument, too, the Committee calls for clearer rules of procedure based on the principles of transparency, openness and representativeness.

1.5. The European Citizens' Initiative introduced by TEU Article 11(4) enshrines, for the first time in history, a direct cross-border, transnational democratic procedure. The Committee warmly welcomes this new possibility and would like to make a tangible contribution to this historic first. It clarifies its point of view in respect of the specific implementing provisions that need to be put in place during 2010. These must ensure that:

  • the public does not face any unnecessary obstacles when exercising opportunities to participate, as the Citizens' Initiative is only an "agenda initiative";
  • clear rules and provisions make it easy for initiators to organise initiatives across 27 Member States, without coming up against unexpected national obstacles;
  • where appropriate, initiators are given financial support once a given threshold has been reached.

1.6. The Committee is keen to play a pivotal role in a transnational democratic infrastructure in Europe and will play its part, as laid down in TEU Article 11, in a targeted, efficient manner. It also offers to act as an information helpdesk, support citizens' initiatives where appropriate through an accompanying opinion, organise hearings on a successful initiative and, where applicable, back up the Commission's evaluation by issuing an opinion.