The Eu's Participatory Contradictions: How to Accommodate Models of Direct Democracy within a Multi-Level Polity

Thursday, July 9, 2015
J101 (13 rue de l'Université)
Fernando Mendez , University of Zurich
The paper focusses on some of the paradoxes of accommodating direct democracy within a multi-level polity such as the EU. One of the consequences of the EU’s increased politicisation is a growing demand for direct citizen input to influence the direction and scope of European integration, which is presently inadequately satisfied through existing electoral channels such as the EP elections. In the absence of other channels to mobilise against the EU, political opposition has sought and will continue to seek the referendum, especially the treaty ratification referendum, as a tool to halt the integration process and express anti-Europeanisation preferences. The problem here relates to the extra-territorial impact of unilaterally deploying this type of referendum on the wider polity. On the other hand, where institutionalised mechanisms are available for exercising pan-EU direct democracy, namely the ECI, the impact on the policy agenda appears to be rather weak. Drawing on comparative insights from how other multi-level polities have addressed these contradictions, the paper presents various models for accommodating direct democracy in the EU.