C3 - Citizenship and Governance

ECAS believes that its first two objectives will not be achieved without a third – a more powerful and inclusive European citizenship combined with Treaty and institutional reforms to make the EU more democratic and accountable. For the association this has meant taking a leaf out of the book of think tanks and concentrating on policy research as well as advocacy. It has also involved acquiring the techniques of participatory democracy and becoming involved in a number of projects to bring together citizens’ panels. During the European year of citizens in 2013, the main focus of activity will be on European citizenship.

European citizens’ charter European citizenship means different things to different people, and pulled in different directions, can end up as an abstraction. To counteract this, ECAS is drafting a charter building on earlier work round the concepts of Rights, Access and Belonging. The charter will bring together texts scattered across the Treaties, the Charter of fundamental rights, legislation and programmes. A draft will be ready shortly, checked by experts and published as a basis for widespread input and development.

European citizens’ participation ECAS was a participant in the earlier EU-27 wide projects run by the King Baudouin Foundation, the citizens’ consultations. Working closely with specialised organisations such as INVOLVE in the UK or IFOK in Germany, ECAS has also run its own citizens’ panel projects to help shape the European house (i.e. “New democratic toolbox for new institutions” and “Carrousel”). The projects have led to the publication of a guide “How the participatory toolbox can make the EU less remote from citizens”.

Information for the European citizen For citizens to participate effectively, for example to be convinced to vote in the European elections, they first need to be informed. Based on research, ECAS has long campaigned for the EU Treaty to include a right for European citizens to be informed of their rights and European policies. This objective has been endorsed by the Commission and European Parliament. Working in particular with Euractiv, ECAS is very much a participant in the debate about how the EU can both listen and communicate more effectively. Access to documents ECAS has been working with other civil society organisations: Statewatch, Access Info Europe, the International Federation of journalists, Friends of the earth and the European environmental bureau. This work has involved research and a publication “A freedom of information act for the EU” (see Publication section) as well as advocacy in the run-up to the adoption of the access to documents regulation. ECAS has also used the right of access with some success: to obtain the publication of the agendas and minutes of the Praesidium of the Convention on the future of Europe as well as to obtain documents relating to the UK, Polish and Czech opt-outs to the Charter of fundamental rights.

European citizens initiatives (ECIs) ECAS’ first activity dates from 2009 when the proposal that 1 million citizens from across the EU could sign and demand for a European law was first raised in the Convention on the future of Europe. The association was active in the consultative process which led up to the adoption of the regulation and has since run 3 major annual events. In addition, ECAS has produced “Tips for the would-be organiser of an ECI” (see Publication section) and with partners in Barcelona, Paris and Vienna run a series of training and seminar events. The next stage after helping many of the ECI organisers with legal advice or tips on fundraising and campaigning is to develop a more formal training programme and help desk
ECAS, alongside Democracy International and supported by Euractive and the ECI Campaign, is setting up the ECI support centre in the framework of the European Citizens’ House.

Towards a new Treaty? EU policy makers are hesitating. Has enough been done under the existing Treaties to stem the tide of the Euro, banking and sovereign debt crisis? There may be more clarity in the run-up to the June 2014 elections. ECAS may then go back to its earlier work of analysing and proposing in relation to Treaty reforms with question and answer publications, conferences and recommendations. The drafting of the European citizens’ charter is certainly revealing gaps which could be filled only by further Treaty clarifications and reforms.

Charter on European Citizenship ECAS has completed a proposal for a Charter on European citizenship. The document seeks to address gaps in citizen awareness of their rights, as well as actual gaps within the EU’s citizen rights provision. Just as importantly, the proposed Charter includes proposals for strengthening the citizens’ access to EU decision making, as well as their sense of belonging to the EU. The ultimate aim of this project is to enhance European citizenship and to turn it into a more holistic concept. 

Find out more at the ECAS Publications webpage

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