8th May 2021


Referenda on the EU constitution is not enough

The Laeken declaration mandated the Convention to discuss how to improve the European Unions' democracy and efficiency. But up to now it seems that the focus is on efficiency, on a rebalancing of institutions.

The role of the peoples of Europe and their rights to influence the Unions politics and to adopt the constitution have only played a minor role. It is time to get the issue of direct democracy on the Conventions' agenda.

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  • MICHAEL EFLER - "The EU is gaining an ever greater influence on our lives. Almost every area of politics is directly or indirectly influenced by EU legislation." (Photo: Michael Efler)

More than 50% of the new laws which have come into force in the EU member states have been passed in Brussels – and the trend is rising. The EU is gaining an ever greater influence on our lives. Almost every area of politics is directly or indirectly influenced by EU legislation.

This became very visible for the majority of Europeans at the beginning of 2002 with the introduction of the Euro. But the Euro is only one example. The internal market, farming subsidies, deregulation of the markets, EUROPOL, EU foreign policy, not to mention the energetic attempts to create a unified European army – all of these issues are decided o by the European institutions only – the citizens have no say on them.

At the same time, it is well recognized based on the experiences of various European countries (and not only of the well-known example: Switzerland) that well regulated and fine-tuned instruments of direct democracy can contribute to a better democracy.

Direct democracy closes the gap between the governments/parliaments and the citizens. It enables citizens to influence politics also between the election days and thus, it creates incentives to engage more in public affairs and take more responsibility. With direct democracy it is much more likely that citizens and human rights will be widened and not reduced. And last but not least: direct democracy makes people happier according to a study of Swiss scientists.

We therefore propose the introduction of the European Citizens’ Submission, the European Citizens’ Initiative and the European Citizens’ Referendum. The idea of the European Citizens' Submission is that the citizens can present a draft law to the relevant organs of the European Union.

These organs have then to decide whether they will adopt the submission or not. The European Citizens’ Initiative is a stronger tool. If enough citizens sign the initiative, then a referendum on the draft law or draft framework law must take place. The result of the referendum is legally binding. Constitutional amendments by European Citizens' Legislation are possible. Fair and balanced information on the issues must be provided to the electorate.

Binding referenda on the European constitution are an absolute necessity and we are fighting for it. But we should not forget that this is a one-time vote that does not allow the European peoples to influence the Union politics after the constitution has entered into force.

MICHAEL EFLER - is a German economist and coordinator of European affairs for More Democracy in Germany. He is also the coordinator of the collection of signatures among members of the Convention for the referendum on a future European Constitution and the direct democrcay proposals.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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