The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is the latest in a line of institutional innovations that have sought to enhance the participatory nature of EU politics. The extent to which this results in a more democratic EU, however, is questionable because simply having opportunities for participation does not equate to participatory democracy. Participation in the EU has tended to favour the involvement of various ‘civil society’ organisations rather than individual citizens. Moreover it has been justified largely on the grounds that it results in more democratic and efficient institutions and decision-making processes. The notion of participation and its relationship with democracy found in the writings of theorists of participatory democracy is somewhat more radical. Not only does it address individuals in favouring measures that make democracy count in people's everyday lives, it also views participation as leading to human development by enhancing feelings of efficacy, reducing a sense of distance from political authority, stimulating concern for collective problems and solutions, and encouraging citizens to be active and knowledgeable about politics. This paper argues that the ECI sees the EU move a little closer to a more radical view. It finds evidence of this in an acknowledgement that the ECI is to be valued partly because of the ways in which it can benefit individual citizens (as opposed to the EU's decision-making structures) in the arguments for a ‘citizen-friendly’ and usable instrument.
Monaghan, E. (2012). Assessing participation and democracy in the EU: the case of the European Citizens' Initiative. Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 13(3), 285-298. doi:10.1080/15705854.2012.702573