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The Emergence of the European Citizens Initiative (Essay Sample)


The Emergence of the European Citizens Initiative

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The Emergence of the European Citizens Initiative
The European Citizens Initiative is a simulation of two individually holistic agendas; one being a referendum on the European Constitution and the other seeking the introduction of certain intricate aspects of active participation of citizens in matters pertaining certain rights within the organization. The agendas and therefore the initiative hoist overarching elements of direct democracy including but not limited to unswerving involvement of citizens in referenda and obligatory referenda for constitutional amendments. The initiative flows from intense lobbying efforts from a conglomeration of civil society organizations targeting to introduce participatory democracy as a means of strengthening the involvement of citizens in the European Union decision making process. Additionally, the drive purposes to fundamentally transform transnational democracy and related practices.
This paper examines the history of the movement and in particular the it investigates its emergence theories. A significant section of scholars believe that the drive emanated from the civil society and other lobby groups which intended for it to be a weapon with which check and balance the powers of the various governments. Others feel that individual citizens were the primary propellants of the ideology which was envisaged to be a tool for the individual private citizen rather than the civil society and other lobby groups. One thing is clear however that the core objective of creating the European Citizens Initiative is founded on making the European Union more democratic and transparent. The paper also explores various prevailing circumstances that drove the agenda to establish the European Citizens Initiative as well as overriding theories and challenges.
What is the European Citizen’s Initiative?
The European Citizens Initiative was a proposition of the Lisbon Treaty and in general terms an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the EU has competence to legislate and which are pertinent to rights upon the private citizens or the obligations place upon the European Commission to citizens of members. It is a European Union instrument that purposes to facilitate direct democracy by enabling private citizens to participate directly in the policy making process of the European Union (Clerck-Sachsse 211).
The program came into force through the treaty of Lisbon in 2007 which forms the constitutional basis of the European Union. Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty gives European citizens the right to suggest to the European Commission proposals of new legislation or amendments as the case may be. The underlying object of the initiative is that it makes a provision that makes it possible for at least one million citizens of the European Union who are nationals of at least seven (7) of the member states to compel the European Commission to ratify policy or other areas where such power is conferred.
The Environment before the European Citizens Initiative
The movement that birthed the European Citizens Initiative started back in the early 2000s over what was assumed by many to be unconscionable failures at the European Union representative Framework. The failures were denoted by the decreasing turnouts at the European Parliament elections fettered by the flailing trust in the European Union institutions. There was a general disinterest in the politics of the European Union which observers took to mean that the disengagement of the citizens from their political instruments was dangerous in that the union yet despite being conferred various powers, was not observed closely; a situation which could result in abuse of such powers. Democratic structures are understood to thrive with active public participation thus the European Citizens Initiative was designed to alleviate the democratic deficit that was suffered (Greenwood 326).
Since its inception, the European Union has struggled with the debate that challenges its legitimacy amid competing notions of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. The institution of the European Citizens Initiative was felt would cure this problem because the Union would not only be identified by the member states, but also the citizens of those respective member states upon active participation in the policy making process. It was a general feeling that the European Union served governmental interests and not those of the various citizens hence lacked legitimacy to stand on its own. Scholars agree that the disconnection between the private citizen and the affairs of the European Commission needed redress because it was stripping the union of its legitimacy hence the inception of the European Citizens Initiative (Greenwood 326).
Individuals from the Natural Law school of thought have always perceived the European Union structural dispensation as a supranationalistic regulatory regime. This is to say that in addition to being placed above the individual constituent governments, the union overindulges itself in controlling practices that ultimately undermine the inherent powers of the integral governments (Marxer 22). Ideally, economic integration ought to be kept distinct from political integration. The European Commission however seemed to either confuse or merge these distinctly separate reprieves and lost its sense of identity. The result was that several governments, government officials, the civil society and the general public registered discomfort with the union especially as regards its objects. As early as the late 1990s there were already calls to make the union citizen centered in a democratic sense (Clerck-Sachsse 331).
Theories of the European Citizens Initiative
Lobby Groups, Corporations and the Private Citizen In plain terms, the European Citizens Initiative ought to be a facsimile of a democratic instrument which functions as a means of reinforcing the democratic voice of citizens. On the ground however, things are different since the private citizen is often the least beneficiary of the same. Secondary interests such as those of lobby groups and political associations or businesses often exploit this opportunity to advance desired policies. At the time of the conception of the idea, there were fears that this would be the fate and constraining bureaucratic procedures were put in place in order to deter corporations. These measures have managed to wade off certain classes of institutions but not those disguised as civil societies (Garcia et al; 178).
Some have also argued that it serves to intensify the same defect that it sought to redress since citizenry lack the means to successfully lodge their requests. The unrealistic demands that they must at least cloak one million and be spread across at least a quarter of the member states is rather overzealous because private citizens will barely go to that extent on their own volition unless there are other incentives such as a handout from a corporation. The effect of this is that there is an unintended beneficiary of the initiative whereas the intended beneficiary drifts away with wavering confidence in the system hence widening the European Union’s democratic deficit (Garcia et al; 288).
Democratic Deficit at the European Union In the recent years, democracy has attained unprecedented popularity compared to the past when it was perceived as a sacrilege to leadership or institutionalized governance. In times of turmoil or crisis, the European Union often comes into sharp criticism over the fact that it suffers categorical democratic deficit. Considering the complex administrative structure of the European Union and the almost disenfranchised connotations people generally merit the term democracy, the causes incidental to the deficit are not readily explicable. The term democratic deficit is used to refer to all issues related to the situation of democracy at the European Union. Like majority of the problems currently fettering the union, the deficit has its roots in the 1950s when the European project was commenced as a means to recover from the wars (Cuesta-López 299).
Currently and perhaps the reason why Britain voted overwhelmingly to exit the union, there are concerns that service delivery at the European Union is severely curtailed by bureaucratic instruments. Though this averment has not yet been substantiated, we can all agree that there is definitely a problem with how the union interacts with its citizens. Other scholars have acclaimed that the deficit endured at the union is a collective measure of how poorly the constituent countries designate democracy yet that term democratic deficit has often been reserved for criticizing the union only. This has presented a situation where the European Union preaches the virtues of a citizens’ driven democracy while on the other hand, the citizens remain on the periphery of the decision-making process (Cuesta-López 313).
The Involvement of the Private Citizens The treaty of Lisbon aimed at bridging the gap between the private citizens, the European Union and its institutions. It sought to realize the principle of subsidiarity by ensuring that decisions at the union are taken as closely as possible to the citizens of the respective members. The involvement of the citizens is attainable by engaging them in the discourse by voting, debating and where necessary obtaining their consent. What is in fact retrogressive to the process is the fact that guidelines have not been wholly explored to outline the threshold that must be met for the arguments and debates of different people to become a legitimate basis for political action (Saurugger 22).
A comparative analysis of citizen initiatives across Europe will yield certain common characteristics as among all countries. ...
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