SUPRANATIONALITY IN PRACTICE: THE EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP

The European Union’s founding Treaty (TEU) recalls and reaffirms the role of citizens in articles 9, 10 and 11 – provisions dedicated to its “democratic principles” – with the intent to establish a direct link between EU citizenship and democracy in the Union.

european-peopleThis need to look for (and find) legitimacy in citizenship – the dual legitimacy of the Union and of its member states – deserves to be analyzed as it is a peculiar expression of this supranational system. Although we find its most effective expression in the last edition of the EU Treaty, this quest for legitimacy is not new in the European integration process.

This is even more interesting as we consider that the lack of citizens’ ownership is often considered a cardinal sin in the process of European integration, whose elitist nature is often blamed.

We may find, instead, that citizens – as beneficiaries of rights as well as actors in democratic processes have always been important.

We can read in the article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Union that:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Even if the significance of the word “democracy” remains unspecified, we could give a first and provisional definition referring to the values listed in art.2 itself, to the constitutional principles common to the member states and to the content of the European Charter of fundamental rights.

In terms of political participation, the European notion of democracy gained significance through the direct election of the European Parliament since 1979. Then, with the creation of a European citizenship by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and, eventually, thanks to the inclusion in the latest version of the Treaty of a title entitled to the Union’s democratic principles: the art. 9-11.

“Article 9

In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 11

  1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

  2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

  3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

  4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. (…)”

This trail was actually prepared by the ECJ case law.  The  starting point was the Van Gend en Loos case (1963). In it the European Courts defines – for the first time – the Community as “a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields and the subjects of which comprise not only member states but also their nationals”. The Court quoted itself, using the same statement in other famous decisions such as Costa vs. ENEL (case 6/64), Simmenthal (case 106/77), Francovich (cases C-6/90 and C-9/90), opinions 1/91 (December 14th 1991) and 1/2009 (March 8th 2011).

After this first step came, one year later, the Costa vs ENEL case, where we read that “the member states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves”. In this case the Court clarifies two cardinal principles – the direct application and the prevalence of European law over national law – both are grounded on this direct relation between the European legal order and the citizens which are direct beneficiaries of its norms

This direct relationship between the citizens and the supranational organization is not immediately qualified as a supranational citizenship – which will appear only in 1992 – and it never became a “supranational nationality”.

Since 1992, in fact, the European citizenship is nothing but a set of additional rights, a status added to national citizenships, barely visible if not in the passport format. Keystone of this status is the principle of non-discrimination, walkway between many European peoples and a common citizenship.

Splitting the two concepts of citizenship and nationality – the first existing at two different levels (national and European) the second limited to the national level –  is therefore a basic element of a clear political project.

The strictly legal content of the European citizenship is indisputable, comparable to that which characterized the notion of the Roman civitas.

The abstractness of a citizenship that is pure legal concept becomes a strong choice where it appears to be an alternative to the notion of nationality or people, terms which instead bring with them a rich substratum of history, culture, religion, language, identity and belonging.

And, in fact, the Union’s objective is not to eliminate the nationality or  the peoples of the member states. Article 1 TEU refers to an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”, article 3 specifies that the Union’s aim is promoting “peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples“, the same provision recalls the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity.

So, we have a clear separation between the two notions: a European politeia/citizenship and national demos/people, the first including a number of different national demoi living together in peace, under a roof of common values, principles and rules.

The same distinction is very clear in the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, where we read:

“Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.”

And

“The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States”. (Emphasis added)

Therefore, this European integration as a legal process – which coexists with strong national identities – is not necessarily a weakness of the system or the mark of an unfinished process, but it seems rather a choice.

Among the European countries there are strong elements of cultural commonality, especially when viewed in perspective, in the context of a globalized world. Europe’s common “spiritual and moral heritage” is not a rhetoric invention, but it was a clear choice to ground its legal order on a “citizenship without a people.”

This choice has some advantages: first, it does not conflict with the national identity recalled and guaranteed by the Treaty and it promotes an integration model based on the coexistence of diversities; second, it should respond better to the need to reassure the defenders of national sovereignty, reducing the risks of nationalist reactions or to the fear -even irrational- of losing national identities (even if, as Brexit is there to prove, it wasn’t enough). Finally, it prevents a possible European nationalism, a typical degenerative disease of nationality.

As we can see, it is a quite different model from the American melting pot.

This belonging to a polity, expressed in purely legal terms, is the real novelty of the European model, replicable in other geographical areas or global organizations – which could generate – one day – their one partial citizenships – and it opens the door to multiple and cumulative citizenships, not conflicting among each other, to communities partially overlapping.

Alongside this European polity – that performs the dual function of building an area of justice and rights and to legitimize the EU supranational institutions, there is another peculiarity of the European democracy: the absence of an explicit reference to collective self-government.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people” is a recurring formula in the states’ constitution and funding acts, so…how can possibly exist a democracy without a people? This requisite appears to be an essential and indispensable element of democracy – as also pointed out by the General Assembly of the United Nations (resolution no. 55/96 of 4 December 2000).

And here we see why this reference to the peoples of the Member States – alongside with national democracy – is also important: it becomes an implicit reference to national constitutions that recognize and codify these collective sovereignties.

The European polity thus integrates a second democratic level on top of the national one, the two being mutually invigorating. It’s no accident that democracy is an essential requirement for the accession to the Union (art.49TUE).

And yet, some people and some political figures still blame the Union for the persistence of a democratic deficit. We believe that this deficit is not in the EU institutional system but in some essential transmission belts required for a genuine democracy: European parties, a European political debate and – even more – a press reporting to citizens what happens in the European Parliament and the other bodies at work over the national level.

Another real gap is in the absence of awareness of many European citizens about their rights and their status in Europe, even if, once the mentioned tools in place, that would be maybe filled up.

So far, in vain  the European Commission launched communication campaigns designed to fill these gaps. The system is formally democratic, but essentially perceived as distant from its citizens.

Its democratic formula – being so disconnected from a sense of identity and belonging – is especially difficult to communicate. Even more difficult if press and political elites don’t give it a try.

To Brexit or Not To Brexit

The nowadays famous article 50 of the EU Treaty didn’t exist before the 2009 Lisbon reform.

The founding fathers’ vision of an ever closer union didn’t contemplate a way back … or a way out. The marriage had to be for life. But then, after the big enlargments in 2004 and 2007, some practical minds decided to foresee the possibility of a divorce.

And here we are, with a divorce we didn’t expect to see.
As a British colleague made me notice, the 48% of the voters who expressed the will to remain are not parties in this divorce process, they are the victims: the children.

And the divorce is not formalized yet and this doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon.

Those who say that enacting art.50 is a competence of the British parliament are certainly right, as the  parliament ratified and enforced the European treaties in the British legal order and cannot be bypassed by the goverment, repealing these acts. By the way, both the parliament and the government  look reluctant as they didn’t really want this outcome.

Those who say that the will of the citizens cannot be ignored are right too. It is absolutely reasonable that such an important decision should require a larger majority, but there wasn’t any rule about it and a majority won.

Both the fields -the Brexit supporters and the remain supporters – have solid arguments on their side.

But there isn’t only the British membership of the European Union at stake. That would be too simple an assumption.

The remain voters are not necessarily supporters of this Union, which has its own undeniable flaws. Most of them stand for an idea: being united with our  diversities, being  stronger together, being peaceful as a family which solves its own divergences discussing at a common table.
Most of them know that the Union is a work in progress which can be improved only from the inside. And they know there is much to gain from the EU’s open borders and European citizenships’ rights if you are willing to move, explore and challenge yourself and your national limiting beliefs. They reasonably don’t want to lose these rights.

The Brexit  voters come from a range of different experiences:

  • Some of them  have suffered and still suffer austerity;
  • Some identify Europe with a suffocating bureaucracy and  a political failure, which is how Europe as been sold to British people for decades: as a useful scapegoat.
  • Some expressed a feeling of antipolitics, they would probably have rejected any political establishment and just prove the  crisis of democracy we all see around us.
  • Then there are the champions of national sovereignty, and all sorts of nationalism.
    This feeling has been fueled by the huge migrations from the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It is a real emergency and nationalist attitudes won’t help to find a solution whatsoever. But still we can understand where this feeling comes from: fear. Fear of invasion, fear of sharing already meager work opportunities and national resources.
  • Finally, some think that a free rider state will thrive on the global market, possibly a more and more deregulated global market. This is a completely different attitude, but still anti-EU. And more than the other views it looks anti-historical as the world goes in the opposite direction: solving problems which become more and more global will require more integration, not less. Even little tax heavens are (finally!) under threat of extinction.

    I am totally empathetic with the “remain” voters and still, while I wish the best outcome for them, I wonder if a Brexit is politically avoidable.

    However the dilemma will be solved, some lessons need to be driven:

    ⁃       austerity has not been the solution to the financial crisis. In some countries it even worsened the economic situation. In many states unemployment is still at record level. The price was especially paid by the weaker part of the population, poverty and inequality provided a good soil for populism and nationalism. Moreover, it has been errouneously attributed to Europe, while it was a national solution (as I already explained).
    ⁃       There is a crisis of democracy and a rise of antipolitics almost everywhere. I have my theory about that: the nation states are not anymore the right institutional framework for tackling most of our problems, we need to go more local and more global at the same time. But – be right or wrong my explanation – we need a serious reflection on our contemporary democracies.
    ⁃       Finally, we need to work for a better Europe, we owe this to those who voted against it as to those who voted in favour. I have written about this and for sure I will write more extensively in the future. I’ve already been too long!

    For those who arrived to the end of my reflections: these are challenges not just for polical elites, not just for governments and states, but for all of us. And this is a call of duty for new brave political leaders at all levels.

Active Global Citizenship: Making the Climate Convention Work

First published on Vocal Europe

 

We are all shocked because of the floods in Paris and across most of central Europe: from Germany to Belgium to Romania. We are scared for the increased frequency and violence of such exceptional climate events, we are worried for our future and the future of our sons.

Yes, some commentators pointed correctly out that this kind of events – as exceptional as they are – already happened in the past, but everybody agrees that global aggregated data on temperature rise are unprecedented, at least as far as we humans can record.

And no events like natural disasters make us feel more powerless, just victims or scared observers.

Still, an attempt has been done – if not to restore the previous climate conditions – at least to slow down this crazy growth of temperature by limiting the impact of our species on the Earth’s ecosystems, to make it finally sustainable. This is the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015 by 196 delegations, signed by 177 states and already ratified by 17 of them.

Unfortunately, as ambitious as it is, the Paris Agreement is not enough.

In the text, which is the result of the twenty-first meeting of the Parties (COP21) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the member states “…Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind”, commit to hold “ the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”.

The goal, so, it is not a correction of the current situation, but just the effort to stop further worsening.

While the convention offers some interesting guidelines to help to reach the goal –subsidiarity, transparency, responsibility – unfortunately it does not provide any real enforcement mechanism nor sanctions in case of infringement. The respect of so important commitments depends solely on the good will of the signatories and on the peer- review mechanism every 5 years.

We know that this isn’t enough, but how could we – the citizens – do something about that?

Well, actually, we can do something.

Through an initiative called “citizens’ climate engagement network” we can all do something.

And I have to thank Joseph Robertson, global strategy director at Citizens’ Climate Lobby for starting this wonderful lab for the empowerment of citizens across the world.

He was right when he wrote to me some days ago: “supranational democracy is underway!”

CCEN could be defined as a new global framework to support and expand direct citizens’ and stakeholders’ engagement in the intergovernmental process, in the surveillance over the States and the way they keep their commitments, in promoting new ideas and ways to stop climate change.

In practice, anybody can host a local working session, to contribute local insights and experiences to the global climate policy process. A toolkit for local sessions is on-line, ready to use. A platform will provide exchanges of views inside this community of engaged citizens. Finally, an Advisory Coalition meets once a month to share insights, think through challenges to meeting the mission of the CCEN, which is to ensure any voice from anywhere with an idea worth sharing can be heard in the global conversation.

The governance is completed by a secretariat and a global team of local networks of leaders, stakeholders and collaborators. The mission is to build a global base of local knowledge, relating to the Paris Agreement, and to bring all the local insight into the COP22 negotiations, making all voices heard. So increasing the legitimacy and the accountability of and the inclusion into the Paris Convention framework.

Representatives from several UN agencies and dedicated NGOs joined the advisory coalition  in their personal capacity, and I’m very glad to be part of it. And the UNFCCC secretariat hosted the initiative in its newsroom. It’s getting big!

What is most relevant in this bottom-up exercise, we learned the lesson that organized citizens may take a stance for global goals, so filling the gaps of global governance. The CCEN is a precious lab. It shows how active global citizenship is possible, as a path towards a more democratic world.

The effort behind this accomplishment could be replicated for other goals, empowering communities of committed people to work together as active global citizens: I think of associations and NGOs promoting human rights, fighting poverty, claiming for women and children’s rights. And these are just examples.

If there is a lesson we can learn from the climate change challenge, it is this sense of belonging to the human family, sharing a “common concern” as humankind.

COP21_participants_-_30_Nov_2015_23430273715-897x494

 

Why Is Supranational Democracy so Difficult to Imagine?

The inadequate attention that international organizations’ statutes  give to legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness hails from the limited role that IOs played at the beginning of their history and from the subsequent scarce attention to democracy in a setting different from the national state.

In today’s different international context, it is worthwhile to challenge the unsurmountable hurdles stemming from the use of the word “democratic” in connection with an international organization.

Even though there isn’t a generally accepted theory of democracy – or more broadly of supranational democracy – in international organizations, we can examine the possible portability of the individual elements that make up this notion from the state level – for which they were originally created – to the international level. This is the experiment I’m almost obsessed about.

However, two kinds of difficulties arise from the fact that we are not considering a community of individuals, but of nations.

The first obstacle is the difficult applicability of the principle of equality, inherent in the notion of democracy. It is based on the concept of equal dignity for all human beings which leads to ignore and even amend the differences that give some people a “birth right” to succeed. All states are sovereign and therefore equal inside the international community, but this principle is nothing but a fictio. Far from wanting to ignore or minimize the differences, the international community focuses upon the preservation of the status quo, which is attenuated only by the shared goal of the sustainable development and protection of fundamental rights. Even when all the countries will get, as we hope, to share similar levels of prosperity, they would be far from equal. Too many facets help mark the differences: the size of territories, populations and economies, as well as the control over natural resources and the weapon supply.

As a consequence, several organizations agree on the principle that states are differently represented to reflect their different situations. Other ones simply ignore their substantial difference, but special provisions or practices make some States more equals than others.

Important scholar studies try to offer solutions to this dilemma, but there isn’t any adequate diffusion and sedimentation of shared assessments. The reflection on the subject has followed two clearly distinct lines: the statism theory, which sees international democracy as the result of the joint action of the states, as essential building blocks; and the doctrine inspired by cosmopolitanism and transnationality, which is based on the assumption of a global demos.

Even if an international organization achieved the perfect representation of all its members and was thus fully legitimate to act, we couldn’t conclude that it was also, indirectly, fully representative of their citizens. In fact, if some of its member states weren’t democratic, or only partly democratic, they wouldn’t be representative of all their citizens. According to the Democracy Index 2015 of the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 20 countries out of 167 are full democracies.

Such a lack of legitimacy is inevitably reflected on the state’s opinions and stands in the institutions of the IO it is part of and on the overall credibility of the institutions themselves. This is a difficult legal dilemma, that can only be solved if the organizations require their members to be democratic – as the European Union does (even if it should keep a closer eye on their evolutions). It is obvious that in organizations with a universal membership the issue must be labeled as “non permanently solvable”and shelved.

There is so a good point for the cosmopolitan approach: only building on some kind of legitimacy driven directly from the global demos we can overcome the “states obstacles” which are their inequality and their imperfect democratic representation.

Even so, the imperfect representativeness that we assume as inevitable, could be compensated by accountability, which can be fully obtained at the supranational level also by designing and experimenting new legal and institutional forms.

International organizations are not really equipped for substancial legitimacy as they are not for full accountability. New channels and tools need to be imagined to provide that their decisions and lines of actions reflect the values and the will of the people.We need new and fresh ideas, in line with the reality (and the technology) of an interconnected society. 

Unfortunately, we are now accessing the realm of imagination, and here there are two more powerful obstacles.

The first one is the power of the status quo: the resistance of political and economic elites, the power of traditions and cultural heritages and the trite old say “it has always been so”.

The second obstacle lies in the fact that economic and legal minds are not really educated to work with imagination, at least not on a big scale. It’s easy to imagine a new interpretation of a rule or a new financial product, but what about a whole new system? Do we feel really empowered to do that?

We hear almost every day that challenging the status quo, working with imagination, “disrupting” are the new frontiers for entrepreneurs and marketers, but this is also true for those who want to prove themselves on institutional engineering… and maybe change the world, for the better.

Human Dignity: the Value Behind the Values

Yesterday, I was speaking with a famous law professor, defending my theory of democracy in international organizations – grounded on the three core values legitimacy, accountability and inclusion – when he said something that hit me deeply:

“democracy cannot but be grounded on human dignity”.

He was, obviously, right.

Had I forgotten the basic value of human dignity? Of course not. I had assumed it, taken it for granted. And this was a mistake, I have to recognize it.

Not only it was a mistake because it  happens that the intrinsic value of every human being and every life is denied in many societies and especially to the weakest members of them, but also because if we want to understand each other on the meanings behind the words we cannot take anything for granted, we have a duty of clarity. After all, when I started this blog I took on this commitment, trying to define even words that everybody know, like democracy…. and I was forgetting such a meaningful ring in the chain of meanings!

How could we imagine a governance system legitimate by citizens, accountable towards citizens and inclusive of all citizens ….if citizens don’t have full dignity, just as human beings? Moreover, being all equally human beings, they all deserve the same respect and consideration, all enjoy the same fundamental rights.

This is clearly the grundnorm of every democratic system, what gives to legitimacy, accountability and inclusion their very meaning.

grafico dignity

There is another interesting consequence: all the citizens have the right to participate, all of them have the right to access the accountability tools (and this may even be considered a civic duty) but these are rights, never obligations. Individuals may as well chose to be on their own, do not use the democratic tools they are granted. The respect of their will to participate or not is, in the end, another way to respect their human dignity and their free will.

 

A Democracy Index for International Organization?

Democracy indexes are usually for states.

They are designed to assess trends and  level of democracy inside countries.

Democracy is never a yes or no, or maybe it may be a clear no, but never a clear and final yes.  Democracy standards evolve, societal challenges require a continuous update of democratic tools and indicators and citizens should never stop to claim for better and more efficient participatory and accountability tools. Democracy is a work in progress.

Let’s have a look at same of these democracy indexes:

The Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy compiles an annual ranking of countries by democracy level. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, government role, political participation and cultural participation.

The Index distinguishes between full democracies and flawed ones, hybrid and authoritarian regimes on the basis of their scores within each category. In 2015, democracies appear to be complete in only 20 of the 167 countries surveyed!

Other interesting indexes and measurements are on other sites, such as the Democracy Barometer, whose theoretical basis is in this chart:

quality_en

Many other indexes and rankings deserve a mention. The Bertelsmann Transformations Index on the political and economic development assesses the status of countries in transition, while the Bertelsmann Sustainable Governance Index refers instead to the OECD countries. The Democracy Ranking is based on political and socioeconomic factors; the Democratic Audit, focuses on UK; the Freedom House: Freedom in the World Reports is developed by the American NGO “Freedom House”; the Global Democracy Ranking measures the quality of democracy freedom & other characteristics of the political system) plus the performance of the non-political dimensions  (gender, economy, knowledge, health, and the environment); Polity classifies political systems on a scale between the two extremes autocracy and democracy; the Polyarchy Dataset is based on Robert Dahl’s concept of polyarchy as the Vanhanen’s Index of Democracy; the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 215 economies;  the V•Dem ratings on 11 different democracy components  for all countries worldwide from 1900 onwards; the Unified Democracy Scores combines measures from 12 other democracy measures (among others Freedom House, Polity, Polyarchy, Vanhanen).

Other ways to measure democracy level may involve the respect of human rights (see among others Amnesty International – Human Rights Reports, or HDR – Human Development Reports (UNDP), or transparency (as Transparency International: Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) und Bribe Payers’ Index (BPI)) or the freedom of press and media (as Freedom House). Please note that the list is not complete!

Even if the theoretical approach and the data sets may differ, all these indexes and rankings have something in common: they all refer to states. These parameters can only be used to a limited extent when evaluating an international organization.

There are some good reasons for that: first of all they measure the efficiency of representative democracy, i.e. the electoral system (are there free elections? do all individuals enjoy voting rights? is the electoral process transparent? and so on…)

Second, many indicators refer to human rights and quality of legislation (freedom of press, judicial rights, gender equality, access to education, et cetera).

Finally, some of them evaluate the economic environment: economic freedoms, free competition, inequality.

All of them, so, assume the existence of a demos and a territory of reference and a government responsible for them. They are definitely useful to inform us on how things work, how they evolve over time and how they can be improved.

But still, I think that we miss an important tile in the mosaic of our democratic rights. What if the decisions which have an impact on our rights do not originate from states, but instead from the UN, the IMF, the Eurogroup? Are still the states to blame? and if so, what can we do to address the issue? The Greek crisis offered a powerful example, but should we speak of the UN Security Council listing potential terrorists without any respect for their defence rights?

I have spent some time reflecting on possible indicators to measure democracy in international organizations, once again to assess how things work, how they evolve over time and how they can be improved. The main difference with democracy indicators for states is that they concern only the relationship between citizens and a governance system.

Here is my concept tree:

supranational democracy chart

What I came up with, is a chart based on three core indicators: legitimacy, accountability and inclusion. All the three may , in turn, be split into different substantial elements, in order to explore possible improvements. Only through a prismatic factorization of each of them in their multiple meanings is possible a real assessment of the existing democratic toools as well as a verification of what is really missing.

There is a close relationship between democratic legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness; several tools serve more than one of these values (you’ll see repetitions in the chart) and transparency serves them all.

What seems interesting to me is that this chart imagined for international organizations works very well for any kind of organization expected to be democratic (even if not all the yellow elements – the practical tools –  would apply, or we could imagine other ones).

 I don’t know how to convert these elements in numeric values in order to build an index, but I’d like very much to join a team to imagine one.

I’m open to suggestions!

 

COP21: A Global Community at Work

In the supranational democracy I imagine, every citizen is a global citizen. But not every citizen is an engaged global citizen and not every engaged one is committed to the same cause.

There are so many issues and so many front lines to engage on and we do not have all the same priorities, so it’s quite natural to me that everybody will (and already does) choose what is really dear to his/her heart, what really matters for her.

We are going to join our community, to commit to our cause with like-minded individuals. That’s the best way to make a difference.

I imagine supranational democracy as a galaxy of global institutions and fora, each having its own community of committed citizens to dialogue with, to draw legitimacy from, to hold them accountable. Overlapping global communities will push for the global public goods we all need.

We have in front of us a powerful example.

In COP21 we see a global community committed to stop climate change: national delegations, international organizations and a wide gathering of committed people – businessmen and investors, NGOs’ activists, scientists and experts, representatives of local communities and of indigenous peoples – all involved in one huge debate, at different levels.

The global demos in the making is something different from the nation we have experienced in the past 3 -4 centuries. What makes us stand together as humanity is an idea of common good which will involve us on a voluntary basis in different processes and priorities.

For this reason I think that it is unilkely that we are going to see a global parliament in the future and  -even if I would be the first to support such an evolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations- it wouldn’t respond fully to our need of democracy because of the distance from the electoral body and the (inevitably) small number of representatives.

What would really make shorter the distance between real people and global institutions would be assemblies or gatherings committed to specific topics: humain rights, sustainable debelopment, equality, fair finance, health and so on. Each of them is already prefigured in a global debate among committed people and each debate is already going on somewhere, somehow.

Encouraging these debates and offering them an institutional space  would make them visible and transparent, would enhance  their effectiveness and fuel productive outcomes.

We hope to  remember one day the COP21 as a turning point in stopping climate change. We could also remember it as a big experiment of global debate, at so many different levels, among members of a global community.

Why Europe is Losing its Credibility over the Greek Crisis

I will write now something quite subversive: the EU is a reasonably democratic entity.

It is the only international organisation to have a legislative power stemming directly from citizens, with its two-chambers system: the Parliament directly representative of its citizens and the Council, directly representative of governments which are too – at national level – directly representative of their citizens. Its powers are conferred by treaties duly ratified by member states’ parliaments or even through referendum. The legitimacy of EU acts is guaranteed by a judiciary system, composed by national courts and by European judges.

But, not surprisingly, the perceived level of democracy of the European system is now lower than ever.

There is a simple reason for that, which unfortunately is not explained and even less understood by media (and so, of course, by citizens): economic policy is NOT an European competence. And economic policy is what dominates the political debate nowadays.

The compromise agreed on in the Maastricht treaty – never changed since- is that monetary policy is an exclusive competence of the Union, while economic policy is a competence of the member states. Of course a single monetary policy cannot survive with 19 different economic policies. That’s why the Treaty on the Functioning of European Union provides for a coordination of national economic policies – now reinforced through the so called “European semester” and why there are a number of prohibitions aimed at avoiding excessive divergences among national economies (the so-called Stability Pact).

The coordination of national economic policies is a mere intergovernmental procedure, agreed among finance ministers and heads of state and government, without any judiciary control and – even less- democratic guarantees.

Why monetary policy was transferred to the European level, while economic policy remained national? Because budgets remained national.

The EU has a tiny budget (less than 1% of the EU GDP) which cannot allow any deep intervention in the management of crises or the fostering of growth. So, the EU can just recommend such measures to member states.

On top of that, states are not equal.

Not only they differ significantly in size and GDP, but they contribute differently to the EU budget (we have already written about that). And they contribute  differently to the interventions which are outside the EU legal framework, as mostly happened in the management of the Greek crisis.

One of the most dramatic consequences of this crisis – whose extent has yet to be measured – is that many European citizens believe that what happened in the management of the Greek crisis is the normal way of functioning of the EU.

It is not.

I can tell you that Europe is better that that and can do (has done) better than that. It has provided over the years a significant increase of the rights of citizens in many core areas such as consumers’ rights, environmental rights, safety of products, right to move, work, study or be healed in other EU countries and so on.

Pity that nobody explains that, nobody writes about it, nobody takes a stance for minimum democratic standards in the management of coordinated economic policies.

The price Europe is going to pay for the intergovernmental (poor) management of the Greek crisis is a loss of credibility in all the other fields of intervention. Trust will take long years to be (hopefully) restored.

I hope that our politicians and journalists are aware of that.

Supranational Democracy in a Nutshell

A few days ago I had the opportunity to give a speech about the need for democracy at global level and about what we, as individuals, can do.

I post it here because it summarizes well what is explained in several previous posts:

 

 

 

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Democratic Experimentation

A possible paradigm for democracy in international organisation is what I call democratic experimentation.

The aim of it is reinforcing the typical elements of the democratic model – legitimacy, accountability, inclusiveness – inside IOs in the most effective ways, consistently with the specific institutional frame and goals of each organization.

In order to do so, the embryonic forms of legitimacy, accountability and inclusion – already existing in a number of IOs – may be progressively strengthened and may evolve into more effective tools and channels. They may be declined in original ways to be improved gradually.

Why “democratic experimentalism”? Because the need to invent new formulas to adjust to the different fields of action and to the different global public goods involved requires that we proceed empirically by trial and error.

A model in this approach is the European Union, defined as “a new legal order” by the European Court of Justice in the famous Van Gend en Loos decision (1963, Case 26/62). It is a model only in terms of process, i.e. in the ability to proceed by trial and error towards more mature forms of democracy, but not in terms of outcome, which is the product of specific historical, cultural and geographical circumstances.

In other words, each international organization could experience a “legal order formula” of its own for  legitimacy, accountability and inclusion, which would be the result of its own specific features and aims. In order to allow such evolution, it is necessary that statutes and founding treaties  establishing the IOs foresee a clear and accessible revision procedure and that they are not considered as carved in stone.

Cultural and structural differences among the organisations prevent from finding universal solutions. What is necessary is rather to find a method and agree on the values and objective to be pursued. As was the case with the process of European integration, other international organizations could evolve into sui generis  legal orders, never seen before.

The twofold advantage of this approach would be: (i) allowing us to read in a teleological frame a series of small evolutions taking place in the law of international organizations (the multiplication  of complaints mechanisms, monitoring bodies, dialogues with civil society); (ii) giving us a key to interpret and measure their progress.

There isn’t yet a ranking of international organisations according to their democratic standards (as there is for States). Nonetheless, it would be possible to build a set of criteria and data to make it possible.

I’m sure that this would be a valuable exercise… and I’d love to contribute.