On making a Citizen’s assembly happen within the European Union

What CoFoE said

In the its final proposals document, in the European Democracy Chapter, Proposal 36.7 says,

Holding Citizens’ assemblies periodically, on the basis of legally binding EU law. Participants must be selected randomly, with representativeness criteria, and participation should be incentivized. If needed, there will be support of experts so that assembly members have enough information for deliberation. If the outcomes are not taken on board by the institutions, this should be duly justified; Participation and prior involvement of citizens and civil society is an important basis for political decisions to be taken by elected representatives. The EU is founded on representative democracy: with European elections, citizens give a clear mandate to their representatives and indirectly express themselves on EU policies;

The Bertelsmann proposal

Possibly the most comprehensive proposal to have emerged is called, Next Level Citizens Participation in the EU (.pdf) from the Bertelsmann Institute.

Chapter 2 is a preamble of principles and objectives, I summarise the critical points as,

  1. Democratic commitment and building a single demos. They say, “EU democracy faces a double challenge. On the one hand, there is no common EU public sphere. That means that there is no process and no infrastructure through which the views and preferences of opinions from citizens from across the EU effectively meet and respond to one another. This is in marked contrast to the situation in most member states, …  Secondly. the EU decision-making process remains extremely fragmented and faces all kinds of political divides. Any piece of legislation that is to be adopted, needs to overcome the divides between the Member States in the Council, and the divides between political groups in the European Parliament. ” They argue that a citizen’s assembly can address these weaknesses.
  2. Solutions Quality – They argue that Citizens’ assemblies are “premised on a process of open deliberation—that is, the genuine exchange of arguments and the willingness to change one’s mind. What is more, participants enter these assemblies without any specific affiliations or commitments to parties or other kinds of constituencies. It is exactly because of these characteristics that citizens’ assemblies are expected to produce new and original ideas.”
  3. Impact – There is a need to ensure that the outcomes are taken seriously and acted upon; they say “However high the quality of its deliberations, given their random composition, citizens’ assemblies cannot convert decisions into the will of the majority. For that reason, the present[ed] model for European Citizens’ Assemblies emphatically frames them as an add-on to the existing decision-making procedures”.
  4. Visibility and Committent, “A key factor to strengthen external authority and the pressure on elected institutions is public visibility, engagement and support that a citizens’ assembly succeeds in mobilising in the course of its work.
  5. On Diversity. They also analyse the depoliticised decision making in the EU and argue this needs to be confronted. Their critical proposal is to ensure that any Citizen’s Assembly needs to “it is crucial to ensure the full expression of the diversity of views in the composition of a citizens’ assembly” They say more on this in the section on selecting assembly members.

The Bertelsmann model, proposes a council, with a secretariat, to guide the panels/assemblies’ schedules and select the topics, a capability for at least two panels at anyone time. The panels/assemblies are to be task and finish entities,  a member of an assembly/panel cannot remain on the successor panels NB the council members are also severely term limited. The assemblies are proposed to consist of 204 members; they have a member state sharing rule (presumably to be based on residency).. There are to be numerous means by which topics are to be submitted, ranging from an open call, via the ECI process to an institutional submission. The plan envisages an annual cadence. It specifies goals for diversity. It also specifies the interface between the assemblies, and the institutions; it places a deadline on the institutions to respond to the assemblies.

I made a formal citation for the Bertelsmann Proposals

Abels, G., Alemanno, A., Crum, B., Demidov, A., Hierelemann, D., Renkamp, A., & Trechsel, A. (2022, June). Next level citizen participation in the EU – bertelsmann stiftung. Bertelsmann Stifitung. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de or https://is.gd/GybDOd or https://bit.ly/3CDFLCd

  1. https://futureu.europa.eu/ CoFE – Consolidated list of draft proposals FINAL (.pdf)
  2. Next_Level_Citizens_Participation_in_the_EU/Next_Level_Citizens_Participation_in_the_EU (.pdf)

The Literature

This is hard to find,

  1. The Case for Citizen Participation in the European Union: A Theoretical Perspective on EU Participatory Democracy, the paper’s host site!!!
Alemanno, Alberto and Organ, James, The Case for Citizen Participation in the European Union: A Theoretical Perspective on EU Participatory Democracy (June 15, 2020). Citizen Participation in Democratic Europe: What next for the EU?, ECPR Press /Rowman & Littlefield, 2021 Forthcoming, HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2020-1376, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3627195 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3627195
  1. Also Citizen Participation in Democratic Europe What Next for the EU?, by Alemanno and Organ, this page is an ad to buy a copy, but contains an abstract. I was looking for a review; James Organ, one of the authors, reviews the book at the U. of Liverpool blog.
  2. Citizen participation in democratic Europe what next for the EU edited-by-by-james-organ-alberto-alemanno, a page on the Consilium site, a verbose exposure of the index.
  3. Eight ways to institutionalise deliberative democracy overview (.pdf) by Claudia Chwalisz of the OECD.
  4. Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions again from the OECD, they say, amongst other things, “This report has gathered close to 300 representative deliberative practices to explore trends in such processes, identify different models, and analyse the trade-offs among different design choices as well as the benefits and limits of public deliberation.”

From CTOE, Citizen’s Assemblies

Some proposals to extend the life of the conference and or create a more real citizen’s assemblies.

The conference made a concrete proposal to include a citizens’ assembly in the future institutional architecture of the Union. CTOE resolved to make a concrete proposal on how to do it. From the agenda documents,

“European democracy”

36. Proposal: Citizens information, participation and youth
Objective: Increase citizens’ participation and youth involvement in the democracy at the European Union level to develop a ‘full civic experience’ for Europeans, ensure that their voice is heard also in between elections, and that the participation is effective. That is why the most appropriate form of participation should be considered for each topic, for example by:


  1. Draft Blueprint for a permanent European Citizens’ Assembly
  2. Time for a Bottom-up European Citizens’ Assembly! – blog June 22nd
  3. CTOE Statement: It’s Time for a Bottom-up European Citizens’ Assembly!  – draft for a campaign statement
  4. Next level citizen participation in the EU, Institutionalising European Citizens’ Assemblies by Bertelsmann Stifitung
  5. Kalypso Nicolaidis, on the future of europe


  1. A proposal for a citizen’s network, by the Council of Regions
  2. The addition of Citizen’s Assemblies / Conventions into the EU legislative process by Dorian Wigund
  3. Establish a Permanent European Citizens Assembly, by CTOE, maybe also here.
  4. Keep the Future EU as a platform, by Ariane Rüdiger
  5. A proposal on the portal to make the CoFoE permanent, by Karl Müller
  6. A network to boost citizens’ engagement in the European Union
  7. https://euroalter.com/manifesto-for-a-european-citizens-assembly/
  8. Proposal for a roadmap: from Conference to Convention & EU treaty change
  9. Manifesto for a European Citizens’ Assembly by CTOE, March 9th

What I think.

CTOE believe that the key principles are Funding, Bindingness/Impact, Inclusion, Visibility and Bottom  Up . We need to add, improving citizen’s committent to the democracy of the Union. What Bertelsmann say about the apoliticalvnature of EU decision making is true and we should note that member state politicians collude with this in an attempt to ensure that ‘real’ politics remain within their control. The transnational initiautives are part of this.

I think the two tier structure is essential. I think the topic generation process is spot on, I think leaving the short listing of topics to jurors is the best first step. I like having two assemblies p.a. I like the term limitations.

I think the proposed panels are too small. One of the powers of citizens’ assemblies is the wide range of expertise that can be assembled even if of a very small focus similar to the way that local credit unions are successful. A larger assembly is needed to guarantee such a micro-focus. The cube root rule would suggest an assembly of about 735 and there would be two of them, but creating a means where genuine conversations can occur for such large numbers is hard but not impossible. NB Speaking time for indiviual MEPs in the EU Parliament is very limited.

I think aggressively introducing radical transnational initiatives maybe premature. I think it is likely to disadvantage ethnic minority communities such as the Catalans & Romany. The major political parties are capable of running pan-European lists, it would be a challenge  for parti4es seeking to speak on behalf of specific ethnic communities.

Autumn 2024

I wrote an article on the UK, Citizens’ Assemblies and Labour Party Policy. I said,

Starmer was glitter bombed at conference, the person that did this is part of the people demand democracy campaign who are campaigning for both proportional representation and a sortition based 2nd house, which they call a people’s house. They seem very proud of the impact their demo had, although I have to ask, why only at Labour conference. The rest of this article looks at citizen’s assemblies and Labour’s proposals for change, which last reviewed in an article, “New Britian, New Britcon” [or on Medium].

I wanted to name check the following CTOE plenary council members, but couldn’t really find their pages, this is the best I did.

  1. Ulrike Liebert
  2. Paul Blokker
  3. Michele Fiorillo

2 Replies

  1. I cross referenced my article on citizens’ assemblies in the UK, and made some links to the best I could find for Paul, Michele and Ulrike.

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