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In Search of the Lost Constitution: The EU between Direct Democracy and the Permissive Consensus

Best, Edward. (2005) In Search of the Lost Constitution: The EU between Direct Democracy and the Permissive Consensus. EIPAScope, 2005 (2). pp. 5-13.

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    Following the negative results of the French and Dutch referendums on the Constitutional Treaty, the European Council has called for a "period of reflection" before reviewing the situation in 2006. This period may last several years, but steps should be taken now to respond to what has happened. The process by which a Convention would draft a Constitutional Treaty, which would then be ratified in many cases by referendum, was hoped to secure public consent to the basic rules and procedures of the European Union. The referendums highlighted different reasons why this has not worked: lack of information or understanding; contradicting or misplaced perceptions of what is at stake; perhaps an inherent unsuitability of referendums for issues of this scale and complexity. The next steps should aim to allow citizens to give their informed consent to the basic reasons, rules and procedures involved, and then to place their trust in representative democracy and other mechanisms of accountability. A new "permissive consensus" is more appropriate than pursuing "direct democracy" over details in a Union of half a billion people. Three lines of action suggest themselves. The first is to develop effective communications strategies and educational programmes. The second is to go ahead with a few changes foreseen as a demonstration exercise in the logic of European integration and a "model debate" to engage the public: these could be the transformation of the EU's provisions concerning Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters, and the role of parliaments in the EU. Finally, the idea should be explored of seeking a reasoned popular mandate by some sort of European Declaration of Principles, adopted simultaneously in each Member State, which would serve as a mandate for detailed negotiations between governments and subsequent monitoring by national parliaments.

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    Item Type: Article
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Direct democracy.
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > democracy/democratic deficit
    EU policies and themes > Treaty reform > Constitution for Europe
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Journals > European Institute of Public Administration (Maastricht) > EIPASCOPE
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2006
    Page Range: pp. 5-13
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:39

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