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Towards a common democracy: How can the EU system generate a mobilising political project for the next decade?


Executive summary Seminar “How to run the EU in 2020?” (The Hague, January 12-13, 2000)


I- GENERAL CONTEXT (synthesis of the works)

A. At stake: how to face a historical challenge translated into a political challenge

During the decades 2000-2020 the EU will have to face a historical challenge unprecedented in human history: how to organise a community of 20 to 25 countries with a global population of 350 to 500 million inhabitants, speaking more than 20 different languages, and how to make it function peacefully ? This historical challenge is translated into a political challenge which is becoming obvious to everybody and which we will have to face before the end of this decade and before the arrival of newer countries in the EU. How to reconciliate people with the process of European Construction in the current situation of major psychological confusions linked to the introduction of EURO, to major uncertainties relating to the extremely rapid enlargement, and to an increasing mistrust towards the Community institutions and the political parties that has been leading and supporting them since the last 50 years . In the ‘50s, Europe answered the question ’how will we avoid a new European war?’ by launching the process of the construction of a common Europe. Today it is urgent to ask the question that worries the European public opinion: ’How will we manage an integrated Europe of 500 million people tomorrow ?’ If we don’t put this question quickly on the European agenda and if we don’t consider a way to answer it in the years to come, it could lead to the failure of the European project and to a setback of its basic values.

B. Diagnosis: Trustless people, the exhausted elites and new expectations

1. 1. The people are fundamentaly favourable to European construction, however :

. They don’t understand its mechanisms which have been designed by and for specialists

. They don’t trust blindly the decision-makers any more and are suspiscious vis-à-vis the ’Community machinery’

. The series of scandals have created, on the one hand, the general feeling that ’something is rotten in the State of the Community’, on the other hand it has strengthened the impact of anti-European positions

. The multiplication of European events – European elections, IGC, ordinary and extraordinary summits – make the debates on EU un-understandable for the citizens.

. They have been kept in an almost complete state of ’European infantilism’ since nearly 50 years due to the lack of a genuine political debate on Europe (except for the new Member States and those which went through a referendum on Maastricht).

2. The elite no longer master the ’European machinery’ which has become too heavy and too complex to be led or, even less, renovated by a few thousand politicians and civil servants: Current European politicians don’t know what to do with Europe which they consider more like a daily problem rather than like an operational solution:

De facto they have abandoned the ’monopoly of European speeches’ to marginal and demagogic movements. EU functions according to a pyramidal system opposing the various levels to each other (European, national and regional level) and appears more and more like a game in which what one wins is what the other looses. The ageing of the population and the low number of responsible persons trained to ’manage the European dimension’ in their own fields confirm the fears vis-à-vis European integration because the national elites have become less European-oriented than the people. The European elite (a maximum of 20,000 persons) are trying unconsciously and in vain to integrate 350 million Europeans into the Community process instead of integrating the Community process into the European society of the 21st century. The same elite and the administration which are in the heart of the Community system have not realised yet that they have been for decades the unique decision-makers of Europe and that they have to share this task today with the financial and economic actors, and tomorrow with the civil societies. European construction has become too heavy to be pulled only by the administrative and political engine.

3. New expectations condition the political attitudes of the citizens and the general functioning of democracy.

. The arrival of the Internet, combined with the development of thousands of European networks since the mid-’80s contribute to the emergence of a European civil society with no possible institutional rooting (the Commission treats them as beneficiaries of funds and the member States consider them only as a cut-out in national ’slices’) and which remains either silent or very critical towards European institutions.

. The general demand for democratisation of the decision-making processes and for transparency of public processes create new political expectations like the refusal of ’buying up ready-made’ European or any other political projects. On the contrary, it requires the launching of a new dynamic process where different actors can get involved.

. With the receding of the historical conditions for the creation of the Community project or of their live memory (world war, Nazism, cold war) the Community project has been placed in a new perspective: from a project to be built up against a radical oppostion, it is becoming a political, ideological and commercial challenge… There are no more « anti-Europeans » but Europeans with very different visions of the future who ignore more and more the ‘taboos’ of the post-war era.

C. Historical response and political objective: to build up a common democracy

To the question on how to manage the EU in the future, the answer which seems to be historically legitimate in the continuity of post-war Europe is ’by building up a common democracy’. Others who refer to the ‘30s may think differently.

Whatever, this answer is to us the only one that implies a political objective and operational and efficient method compatible with current European values.

The main advantage of this concept is that it is at the same time unclear and precise, at least as much as the project of the European Community was in the ‘50s.

This duality is essential for its success:

. It gives the possibility to adapt to future developments and hence to be open to the future

. It imposes time for this concept to be well defined and to be organised according to an agenda to be set up

. It offers to all potential actors (thousands of them from Members States to civil societies) the time to get well prepared and hence to be able to defend their opinions and to influence the results

. It acknowledges a fundamental issue: a modern democracy can be invented only with all components of the complex societies which it tries to organise. In the best case, the elites can only give impetus or assistance, in no case can they invent it or be the final decision-makers.

Briefly, this answer is the setting up of an invention PROCESS for a common democracy, and not a closed project presented by the top of the system. As to the objectives, this project is also in the perspective of the European history, Common Market, Single Market and Single Currency, and is inspired by those who manage to carry out successfully these major endeavours.

II- ACTION PLAN (A political process)

A- The instruments for ensuring success

The process of building a common democracy before 2010 is based on methods already implemented by the EU during the last decades. This time however, it implies a global reshaping of its whole ‘machinery’, as well as potential participation from all Europeans.In order to be efficient, this process should be based on existing dynamics and make use as much as possible of the instruments already available:

. The Internet represents a technology progress perfectly adapted to the challenges of a European democracy

. The emerging European civil society consists of 500 000 to 1 million people potentially capable, thanks to their ability to handle the European dimension, of being associated to the narrow circle of the Brussels elite which is incapable to implement the Community project alone

. The European elections in 2004 and 2009 should give the opportunity to structure the preparation of the action plan on the basis of two real events

. The general assessment of public opinion, that of the dys-functioning of EU institutions, can be translated in a positive way and used as a content base for initiating a democratic debate.

B- Agenda and objectives

- Before 2004: reinforcing the popular basis for a common democracy valid for 15 members and prepared to enlarge

- Before 2009: Anchoring of the Community project in a continental-sized democracy


> Mobilising the European elite around the necessity to reform the basis of the European construction: In the institutions, there is a serious shortage of methods and European human resources able to manage a great diversity of inputs and to function with open networks. A determined action to be carried out from 2001 onward will require the support of the majority of the administrators and of the middle management staff under 50 years old.

> Transforming the actors of the European civil society into partners of the European construction: Through communication aimed at all the European citizens (the final target), the strategically determining target consists of the 500,000 to 1 million actors of the European civil society (NGOs, universities, local authorities, research centres, media, SME), in particular the 200,000 of them who benefit from Community programmes managed by the Commission. They are already used to the Single Currency, have regular contacts with the European institutions and are already integrated in this emerging European civil society (through networks). They are ‘opinion-makers’ about the EU in their professional and personal environment. Currently they are spreading negative ideas because they are treated as beneficiaries of funds and not as partners of the European construction. They are easily reachable by the Commission via the various programmes that finance them. Their involvement depends on their activity fields. Therefore it is important to associate them before 2004 to the preparation, follow up and assessment process of each European policy, programme by programme, field by field. Nowadays this interactivity is possible in real time and at low costs for thousands of the actors through the Internet.


Support the emergence of European discussions fora and spaces on EU future: Via the Internet or regular debates at the European or at the local level, discussions about EU future should become a major objective of EU communication. ’To sell Europe, is to demonstrate that it offers an unequalled opportunity to reflect upon the future and its problems’. It will be necessary to create a legal framework for European non-governmental structures before the elections of 2004. Indeed, it would be counter-productive to exclude out of the European legal space thousands of networks which are the concrete human dimensions of the European construction, since it would deprive Europe from its main political and democratic ’task force’.


Widening up the debate to a larger audience…: The strategy of associating the European civil society to the European project finally aims at mobilising the society as a whole …and to the applicant countries: The applicant countries will need this time to train sufficient number of persons able to manage their accession into the EU and to strengthen their civil societies to make sure that their input in terms of population will not reverse the European democratic balances.


European election with the background of pre-negotiation of a new financial progamme for the EU (the current Santer Package comes to an end in 2006), introducing concrete elements in the debate of European elections about how to finance enlargement ?


According to the same scenario (targeting civil societies, large public debates etc.), enlarging the debates to the applicant countries in order to prepare their entry into the EU.


Official date of accession of the first new member States


Anchoring of the Community project in a democracy at the continental level with the European elections of 2009 open to new member States.

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