Europe’s Democracy Challenge: Citizen Participation in and Beyond Elections

8 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2020 Last revised: 7 Jul 2020

Date Written: January 16, 2020


As the EU enters a new political cycle, this article provides a critical analysis of the state of EU democracy by focusing on its two main components: representative and participatory democracy through their theoretical and practical realities.

It argues that it is for EU democracy — and potentially for the Conference on the Future of Europe — to rethink its system of representative and participatory channels in order for these channels to become more complementary and more effectively engage with the citizenry. While it will not magically treat the EU democratic malaise, it could make the system more intelligible, accessible, and ultimately responsive to citizen-driven issues — without necessarily undertaking Treaty reform.

The immediate priority is therefore to ensure that EU citizen level participation appear prominently in the agenda of the new Commission without being totally appropriated by the ad hoc Conference on the future of Europe.

Europe will not find its democratic soul in a large-scale, stand-alone, and pre-framed deliberation exercise. It is instead through the creation of an accessible, equalizing, and safe space, which accommodates public input on a daily basis, that the EU will overcome its own chronic democratic malaise.

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, conference on the future of Europe

JEL Classification: K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Alemanno, Alberto, Europe’s Democracy Challenge: Citizen Participation in and Beyond Elections (January 16, 2020). German Law Journal, 2020 , HEC Paris Research Paper No. LAW-2020-1366, Available at SSRN:

Alberto Alemanno (Contact Author)

HEC Paris ( email )

1 Rue de la libération


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