Beyond Consultations: Reimagining European Participatory Democracy

Carnegie Europe, Reshaping European Democracy, 2018

HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2019-1327

13 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2019 Last revised: 24 Jan 2019

Date Written: December 20, 2018


This paper provides a critical assessment of the realities of EU participatory democracy and offers a set of innovative democratic innovations capable of making the Union more responsive to public input. It argues that today’s limited effectiveness of citizen participation to EU decision-making is due to the design, nature and practice of those instruments more than to the inherent inability of citizens to participate. As such, it concludes, the democratizing potential of the EU participatory tool-box remains not only fundamentally misaligned with societal participatory expectations, but also largely untapped.

The paper suggests that the time has come for the EU to create an enabling and collaborative political environment fostering citizen participation beyond elections. Such a space may give birth to alternative, unconventional forms of participation capable of channeling citizens’ pluralistic and increasingly chaotic input into the political conversation to bring citizens closer to our representatives and, moreover, doing so in-between elections and across countries. Thus, for instance, by centralising all public input in a one-stop-shop entailing the participation of all EU institutions, a European Question Time might crystallise and eventually connect the daily realities of Europeans with the day-to-day operation of their institutions. A European Democratic Jury of randomly selected citizens from all over the Union could further contribute to such an objective by ‘humanising’ the EU decision-making.

While this participatory framework would not magically fix the European accountability deficit, it may compensate for that by making the system responsive to citizen-driven agenda-setting and monitoring and eventually making it more intelligible and accessible to the many.

Keywords: Participation, Participatory Democracy, Open Government, Transparency, Civic Empowerment, Legitimacy, Accountability, Civil Society, European Union, Good Governance, European Question Time, European Citizen Assembly, European Citizens Consultations

JEL Classification: K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Alemanno, Alberto, Beyond Consultations: Reimagining European Participatory Democracy (December 20, 2018). Carnegie Europe, Reshaping European Democracy, 2018 , HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2019-1327, Available at SSRN:

Alberto Alemanno (Contact Author)

HEC Paris ( email )

1 Rue de la libération


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