Bridging the Gap? European Citizens' Initiatives as the Missing Link between 'the EU' and its Citizens

Jan 01, 2013 | by
  • Description

Although debates on the European public sphere deficit as a hallmark of the European Union's democratic deficit have subsided in recent years, the problem of a perceived gap between the union's citizens and institutions remains pressing. In 2012, the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was introduced as the world's first transnational citizens' agenda initiative, thereby providing what is arguably the strongest, but also the most demanding instrument of participatory democracy in the EU to date. The present paper discusses the question of whether and to what extent the ECI can bridge the gap between the EU institutions and its citizens. Theoretically, the paper draws on the Habermasian distinction between the two tracks of deliberative politics (public sphere vs. political system) to advance the argument that the ECI provides not only an incentive for transnational civil society networking and mobilization, but moreover an institutional opportunity for channeling communicative power into the EU institutions. Empirically, the paper draws on the experiences of three of the citizens' initiatives that are currently in the signature collection process, namely Right2Water, Stop Vivisection, and End Ecocide in Europe

Bridging the Gap? European Citizens' Initiatives as the Missing Link between 'the EU' and its Citizens