EU Democracy Lab

The Conference on the Future of Europe is at the moment, the most advanced and innovative experiment in both participatory and deliberative democracy and an EU flagship initiative

Participatory Democracy:

There is a web platform which offers to all European citizens a unique opportunity to contribute to the conversation on Europe’s challenges and priorities and to sketch the future they want for the European Union. If you are European or you live in Europe, you may be interested in registering at https://futureu.europa.eu/, getting involved, sharing your ideas or even organizing an event and making it known to everybody on the net. If you are not European you could do just the same, if you are curious and open to experimenting with democracy.

Deliberative Democracy:

The experiment becomes even more interesting if you are one of the 800 citizens randomly selected. Four European Citizens’ Panels are organized to allow citizens to jointly think about the future they want for the European Union. Each of them is composed of 200 European citizens selected by an algorithm, from the 27 Member States (one third under 25), reflecting the EU’s diversity: geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and level of education. Each panel meet three times in total and appoints 20 representatives who shall take part in the Plenary, present the outcome of their discussions and debate them with other participants. Never such a trans-national multi-lingual exercise in deliberative democracy has been experimented until now.

The two streams of discussion are going to meet as panels shall take on board contributions gathered in the framework of the Conference through the digital platform. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission have committed to listen to Europeans and to follow up, within their sphere of action.

By spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe.

Does this make the Union the most advanced democracy ever? An out-and-outer, a non-plus-ultra of democracy? Nobody would believe it, neither we do.

Yet it proves, once again that Europe is a work in progress open to very interesting experimentations on democracy beyond the borders, the most advanced lab we have on such a big scale (on the small scale of communities the experiments are many and very interesting).

Will it be a success? Will it produce interesting outcomes? Will EP members, national governments and commissioners draw on this reservoir of ideas for a real Treaty revision or at least some innovative policies? Will some NGOs succeed in making these deliberative and participatory democracy tools permanent as they wish?

We can just wait and see.

What I will never be tired to suggest is that the European brave experiments are not just for Europe. Whatever proves successful in sharing decisions and policies, in a continent that has been for centuries a cradle for wars deserves attention.

The lessons learned can be transferred – with all the necessary adjustments – in other regions of the world or even on the global scale, to manage some issues which are just too big for the national and even for the continental dimension.

How I Learned the Post-National Democracy Mindset and Why I Share It.

The current pandemic is just the last issue in a series, compelling us to think global. Climate change, migration waves, rising inequalities, pollution of the oceans, financial crises, had already tested our ability to look at the big picture overcoming the national borders.

Full awareness is needed about the importance to think global even when acting locally for moving towards more advanced forms of cultural and political responsibility and increased solidarity, up to the task of fairly managing global issues. Such awareness starts from individual behaviour and enlarges to the collective and social dimension: each of our individual choices and actions has a ripple effect well beyond our direct perception.

Yet feeling and acting as global citizens is not subsequent to our rational understanding of its importance. There is all the well-known distance between the mind and the heart: the rationale and the deep-rooted feelings of belonging, anxiety for the future, disbeliefs dictated by fear, social conditioning and realpolitik.

How could we humans learn with the heart and not just with the mind?

This post aims to retrace my personal learning journey and how I came to believe – with mind and heart – that this shift is possible, doable, and not scary at all. A second question, yet to be answered, is how all this learning which took decades of my own life experience can be communicated or even taught.

I have chosen autoetnography “as a research method: it allows the researcher to talk about their personal experiences in order to broaden our understanding of specific phenomena” (Lehtonen and Gatto).

This is quite a challenging choice for a law professor not used to write from a subjective perspective and to expose personal vulnerabilities. Yet, as this journey revealed to myself the power of passion in learning, getting motivation and increasing resilience as a learner and a teacher, I hope this kind of reflexivity could be useful for others as well.  

My First Steps: Self – Education and Advocacy.

There are reasons rooted in my personality, my education and my personal experiences which explain a certain inclination towards universalism. I bet they are far deeper and older than my studies and I suppose that listening to John Lennon in my teen years was a symptom more than a cause.

So, if you ask me how I became passionate about this topic which is now the subject of my academic research, I cannot but describe a very personal path, and I perceive all the difficulty of explaining in rational terms something that for me is a deep- rooted feeling.

The most significant cultural influences in my early youth came from humanities and the almost omnivorous taste for reading. I could add a somewhat solitary attitude, the contemplation of nature and the fascination for the New Testament and its message of brotherhood and universal love.

When I attended an Italian public school in Southern Italy, a “liceo classico”, and, later, I followed a traditional law school curriculum, foreign languages and school exchanges were not in the picture. My parents – open-minded, and for sure free thinkers – had not exactly an international mindset, nor were they passionate travelers. Yet, I benefitted from learning how Europe and the whole Mediterranean area came to be a cultural pot-pourri: Still today, Greek and Roman ruins are scattered all around; Middle Age clerics travelled from monastery to monastery and artists from court to court; migratory waves influenced the formation of the languages we know today; similar ideas sprouted all around in different soils as variations on the same theme – from philosophy to architecture to music and figurative arts. A second push came from literature, the Russian, the French and the British ones being my favorites during the school years (later followed by the American one and by occasional discoveries of other cultural climates). It is difficult not being universalists when so many human creations speak to your heart.

But the real turning point came when, only seventeen, I met on my way the Young European Federalists movement, and I was turned into an activist in a blink. The movement I joined had a powerful narrative behind it: it was born during WWII and was imbued with democratic universal values, as equality and fundamental rights, parliamentarism and representative democracy, in opposition to nationalism, xenophobia and discrimination. It was standing against the balance of powers built on weapons, which was under our eyes in the bipolar world of my childhood and promoting the unification of Europe through democratic institutions as a first step to unify the world.

It was an authentic call of the heart: I felt I had found my cause. In a few years and almost without teachers I started to speak in public (and I was, really, shy!), I learned the basics of English and French, and a little about leadership too. All this learning became a curriculum that I built for myself and that for many years flanked my official curricular studies. My heroes were – and still are – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. I am pretty sure that, if I were born in the 21st century, Malala and Greta would have inspired me even more, as I would have loved to see young girls challenging the world as they did.

It was, probably, to anchor inside reality such an idealistic personality that I started my law studies. At university I discovered the underrated function of law to unite rather than divide – through shared institutions and participatory mechanisms – as well as the panoply of tools created to negotiate rather than to litigate and how the best negotiation is the one landing to win-win solutions.

Of course, (!) I was fascinated by European and international law. But I do not underestimate the role of the States which have been unifiers, in turn, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when populations were addressing their need for cultural identities, safety, shared rights. I do not deny that States have been the second cradle of democracy, reborn in a different shape after a long winter that had left the seeds of Greek democracy and of the Roman Res Publica buried deep in the earth.

My parallel political path brought me to pay specific attention to all the concepts and tools about democracy. I could easily understand that democracy is not a fetish or a flag to be waved, but a delicate plant to water and fertilize and how deeply different classical Greek democracy, post-revolutionary American and French democracies, contemporary democracy are. I never doubted – neither I do now – that democracy is going to evolve over time just as our own idea of human dignity, being the two so strictly interconnected.

Democratic and in more general terms institutional systems – just like ecosystems – aspire to sustainability, as non-sustainable legal orders collapse. That I got from direct observation. The turn of events I witnessed in the Nineties struck my attention and made me think. I remember well the end of the bipolar world, the collapse of the Soviet Union, then the war in former Yugoslavia – a border State – and even more, the end of the Albanian regime after fifty years of seclusion. Ships overloaded with 27,000 expatriates entered the harbour of my town, Brindisi, in two days, in 1991. These events hit a sensibility used to speculate on borders, democratic values, and ways to improve the world.

Two Paths Destined to Merge.

After my law degree, and not without fierce family opposition, came my academic experience, equally divided between European and international law. The opposition was not to the academic career itself, but to the choice of avoiding national law and so skipping any “normal” career as a lawyer, judge, or public officer. Almost naturally, my research addressed the (then) European Community institutional system and decision-making process. My PhD dissertation was dedicated to the big novelty of the day in the early Nineties: the prospect of European economic and monetary union – with all its governance implications. Other topics which fascinated me later were the soft power of the EU in external relations, European citizenship and almost naturally, the evolving democratic formula of the Union and the possible applications of it in other international organizations.

Moving from there, the curiosity to investigate global economic governance was almost natural. No doubt, my early imprinting was naturally guiding me. International law provided me with a realistic approach, which I very much needed, and the fast-evolving European Law gave me a dynamic perspective and provided a set of democratic tools to be analyzed, which were being experimented above and beyond borders. We had in Europe, since the Fifties, a rich and lively debate on the so-called European democratic deficit, addressed, again and again, revision after revision of the founding treaties. Indeed, it was food for thought. The EU is – almost by definition – a work in progress. As the just launched Conference on the Future of Europe, several of these exercises over the years called me like many other activists to express opinions and get involved.

In the same years, my path brought me to several European institutions as a scholar and a trainee: I saw the States’ perspective from the privileged viewpoint of the Council’s Legal Service and I was in the ECB’ Legal Service in the first year of its very existence when you could still breathe the atmosphere of a construction site. I was, frequently, in and out of the European Parliament – then less influential (and less guarded) than it is now – where I could listen without filters to the Parliamentary Committees’ work and ask questions to EP members. The Europe of 12 of my youth was a bit more homely and, before 9/11, the safety measures were nothing compared to the current ones.

My activist path rested in stand-by for a while before evolving in an advocacy path. I gave up demonstrations and became a quiet scholar, very much for not disconcerting my tutors and master. Or at least, this is what I was thinking. But, looking back at those early years of  my academic career I can see that I was channeling  my reformist impulse into my studies, so that that underground river surfaced not many years later when, as a young professor, I went to Washington DC – destination IMF and World Bank – with a plan of interviews in my pockets and the determination to understand their governance structure and – among other things – if after monetary unification European Member States were still in their full power as members of the Bretton Woods institution (answer: they were, by the way they still are). Many Executive Board members in the financial institutions were not so difficult to get in touch with as I thought they would have been, and some were even willing to contribute to an academic research. For a strange coincidence, I had started to work on the BW institutions just a few years before the global financial crisis and I was again on top of things.

It was then, in 2009, that with a group of university colleagues, we created “The Group of Lecce”, a think tank offering unsolicited advising to international financial organizations and G20 political leaders. The communiques from the Group of Lecce circulated well beyond our expectations and some national chancelleries replied ceremoniously to our letters addressed to the Heads of State. As a representative of the Group of Lecce, I was invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee and I also started attending the Civil Society Policy Forum organized annually by WB and IMF to convene civil society and have them discuss in their premises the most cutting- edge topics. This was a great occasion to meet activists from all the corners of the world, supporting many different causes, all worthy: developing poor countries; managing of social priorities, like health, education, unemployment; greening finance; stopping climate change, cancelling overwhelming public debt and (yes!) democratizing global governance. I started even supporting the Engage4Climate Network as a pro bono advisor.

Some interesting lessons came from all these DC experiences: (i) in the new internet era, nothing and nobody is really beyond reach; (ii) you never know if you will get a reply until you do not address somebody – be him/her the emperor of the Universe; (iii) an academic “Id” is quite a pass, no matter if your university is not exactly Harvard; (iv) global civil society already exists, in embryo; (v) the dialogue among people coming from different paths may be very fruitful.

Approaching our days, these lessons gave me the necessary confidence to start in 2015 a blog, called “Supranational Democracy”, and later on, in 2018, a series of events called Supranational Democracy Dialogues (SDD), a place where scholars, civil servants and activists could discuss informally such topic, inspiring each other. I was supported by a great team of young scholars and by the students themselves. Another lesson learned: the moment you start to follow your most authentic call, other people will come willingly to share your path. The power of passion in learning and teaching is a well-explored topic, yet, showing your own passion requires openness, confidence vulnerability. As passion emerges inside us and becomes part of who we are, we start wondering how we can recognize it in students and collaborators and encourage them to express it too. The SDD experiment showed me the power of leading by example just allowing my enthusiasm to be seen.

All these experiences influenced my relationship with my sons and my students.

Teaching the Lessons Learned

The first beneficiaries of my experience were my two sons since their early childhood. They learned the “beyond borders” mindset in a much easier and faster way attending an international preschool: they get used very soon to the existence of people from many different cultures, speaking many languages, with lots of different habits. I suppose it was great vaccination against racism and xenophobia as they were spared, at the beginning of their life, fear and distrust towards diversity.

I remember my older son, at three, being questioned by the grandma about the language talked at school. He replied naturally to his anxious nonna that his school was such a great place where everybody could speak the language one preferred. The Italian elementary school appeared (hélas!) a gloom place compared to the liveliness of the preschool melting pot.

Along the years, I shared with my kids the stories and reports of my travels and encounters, accompanied by photos and explanations. I could not hide my embarrassment when my younger son, at eight, wrote in a school essay, that the Paris Convention on Climate was so important that even his mom attended it! Nonetheless, I loved that they could see events on TV around the world and think they were not estranged from them, be it because of a mom’s trip or of the place of origin of some schoolmate. In the same period, we started travelling around, and savoring first-hand the different cultures, museums as much as parks and restaurants.

With my university students the lessons learned surfaced almost as naturally.

My lessons on European institutions were easily enriched with anecdotes and personal experience. Guests come and visit me in my classes both from European institutions as well as from civil society – even more now (online) during the pandemic, at no costs. Students willing to do a research are encouraged to get in touch with relevant actors around the world, as I encourage them to be bold as I have been. Yet, the question in my mind is always the same: How much of my own experience can be transferred, being it a mix of passion, opportunities, and different institutional frameworks’ conditioning?

Of course, students may be encouraged to express themselves (also to contradict the teacher, which is as much useful) and to find their cause. Pursuing a personal motivation, having a big “why”, pushes to study, learn, experiment, and challenge yourself, it made miracles in my life. In times of global issues, sustainability can be the “Big Why”, as it is all about the survival of the human species on the planet.

Vision and narrative feed the emotional side of learning. As far as I have a vision to share and stories to tell – personal experiences as well as historical accounts – it is easier to teach lively lessons as well as empathize with students’ visions and stories. 

Just as happened to me in the last ten years I encourage students to do things that make them feel useful. I suppose that making a difference is a very human aspiration. As small as the difference may be – a cleaner corner of the world, a step forward in community building, fighting poverty, raising awareness – anyone gets motivation from things done and goals achieved.

But it was only in 2019, thanks to the Jean Monnet Chair I was awarded on “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model”, that I was officially in charge of designing courses and classes on supranational democracy, which offered me the occasion to develop ad hoc teaching tools and techniques, which, then I had to move on-line because of the COVID 19 safety measures.

But teaching is another (long) chapter of my story and it will the subject for some other post!


Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order

29maggio final

On May 29, at 4 PM CE, the final webinar in the Supranational Democracy Series:
Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order.

Does the Planet need new rules? Does the post-pandemic world need new legal or institutional tools for a more cooperative (and less competitive) system of sovereign states? or even beyond sovereign states?

Can we imagine a more democratic global governance? a more eco-friendly global governance? Can we imagine citizens and civil society have a meaningful say over global issues affecting them all?

This webinar series – which replaced in these pandemic times – a more traditional conference, has been -for me – an incredible journey. I had the amazing opportunity to discuss these huge topics, with many inspiring people: professors and journalists, experts, and activists, researchers in different fields but with equally strong dedication, approaching similar issues from very different angles.

And I could learn how a webinar works, along the way! Gosh, it wasn’t easy…

I had several aha moments. I saw a little preview of something which has still to be built: a frank,  open debate in a global transnational public sphere.

Whatever the world we are envisioning, I suppose that opening such space, encouraging a conversation and a narrative beyond the borders, is a precondition for our evolution as a species.

We are still learning how to communicate as global citizens, how to build a world public opinion of which the young people of the “Fridays for future” have been the vanguard.

There is still a long way to go, but, quoting Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

And we have taken a few steps.

I want to thank all my wonderful fellow travelers.

Connecting the dots: how a “supranational” path led me to the Supranational Democracy Dialogue.

Most of the experiences I had in my life (in researching, teaching, advocacy) point to this specific direction: governance beyond the State.

Advocacy came first. Since I was a teenager, I played a leading role in the Young European Federalists (JEF).

It was only after I was awarded a Ph.D. grant from the University of Bologna that I had to put aside that experience (apparently to prove to be a “serious” researcher) according to the suggestion of my mentor prof. Paolo Mengozzi. My Ph.D. thesis, which became my first book was dedicated to the economic and monetary union, a brand new topic after the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. The focus of my whole work (in the Nineties) was the lack of economic governance in Europe or, to be precise, the need for a common fiscal policy, a topic still relevant nowadays (and the topic for another book later on).

From there I moved to research on the ways and tools for Europe and the Eurozone to speak with one voice in the international fora, so I came to study the IMF and the World Bank (and to the governance of the two was dedicated my second book). The external relations of the EU are a recurrent topic in my record of publications, with two specific focuses: representation in international organizations and euro-Mediterranean relations, between bilateral and multilateral options.

Only later on I realized how my federalist starting point was influencing my research path: wherever I see a governance problem I start to investigate representation, legitimacy, accountability, budget. And I’m drawn to governance issues like a moth to a flame!

Once realized that, I went straight to the point, publishing on democracy in international organizations, on accountability, on citizenship in the European democratic formula.

 I think that not less interesting and diverse has been my experience in advocacy.

In 2009, with a group of colleagues, I founded the think tank The Group of Lecce which, on the long wave of the global financial crisis, started releasing communiques on how to improve the governance of financial institutions.

 In the same period, I started attending the Civil society policy forum convened twice a year by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the occasion of their annual and spring meetings and I was invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee.

Starting a blog on “Supranational Democracy” in 2015 was the next step.

It seemed quite natural, two years later, to make the research line converge with the advocacy path and I convened a big international conference to invite scholars and people from academia and institutions to discuss with civil society leaders. All the networks I had previously attended mixed up in this new adventure.

So, in 2018 I have been the organizer – with a great supporting team- of the Supranational Democracy Dialogue (SDD), a dialogue among scholars, civil society and creative thinkers on democratic solutions to global challenges. the story of that experience is in a little documentary film.

As the first edition of the dialogue was a big success and created a platform of like-minded scholars and activists, I am now working on the second edition. I can count on an interesting and diverse network collected around this idea that the world needs some kind of democratic global governance.  

Eventually, this year, I was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair whose title is “Legal Theory of European Integration: a Supranational Democracy Model”. A sort of blessing, for me, after so many years of dedication to an idea which was, for many, plain crazy.

I think that building governance beyond the state and reinventing democracy for the human family is the big challenge of the XXI century, or maybe of the second millennium.

Spiritual people call it oneness: realizing that we are all one, connected and interdependent.

Pragmatical scholars move from different premises: issues are nowadays global (global warming, sea pollution, water scarcity, migration waves, trade wars, threats to peace and security); global institutions are imperfect, as they were created many decades ago for a world of sovereign nations which look nowadays inadequate (both the nations and the global institutions). Globalization of finance, markets, social media calls forth globalization of rights.

No matter which position you move from, you can get to this awareness moved by the mind or the heart. You can come from international law, economics or maybe philosophy, anthropology, a religious belief, or a psychological search… the supranational democracy dialogue could be the place for you.

The panelists come from so many different experiences that nobody expects to teach or to hold the truth, and everybody has for sure something to learn. What is expected is a phenomenon of cross-pollination among ideas, cultures, and paths.

The next edition of the SDD will be in Brindisi, on April 16-17. The program is still a work in progress, it will be posted shortly. If you want to attend or to receive the network newsletter please send an email to info@supranationaldemocracy.net.

See you there xxx

Susanna

Before the European Elections, Let’s Talk about Us, the Citizens

A new event hosted by Università del Salento on April 5, 2019, Rectorate (Piazzetta Tancredi), open to the public:

 

CITIZENSHIP IN ACTION: IMPLEMENTING PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

Ten years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union is a democratic space, as its founding treaties officially recognize (art.10-11) TEU. Yet, many citizens don’t know their European civic rights and the potential of the Treaty of Lisbon – to enhance the role of the citizen at the center of the system – appears underexploited.

Which tools and channels can citizens activate to get involved in the European decisional process?

Could transparency in the EU legislative process be enhanced?

Is citizens’ legal protection guaranteed in any stage, as individuals and as members of communities and groups?

Are the core values of the Union guaranteed as well?

Can we really say that there is “no way back” on democratic guarantees?

 

These topics will be discussed with the audience by:

 

 

Onno Brower ( Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Law Firm – Amsterdam/Brussels)

Antonio Caiola (European Parliament Legal Service – Luxembourg)

Emilio De Capitani (European Parliament, King’s College- Brussels)

Claudia Morini (Università del Salento)

 

Chair: Susanna Cafaro (Università del Salento)

 

 

 A summary will be posted shortly after!

 

 

Scientific Coordination: Susanna Cafaro, Emilio De Capitani

Are You Reinventing the World or Just Accepting its Reinvention?

We live in a complex, globalized and interconnected world.

All the good and the bad concerns everyone, wherever it happens.

Yes, we have still roots in a country and in a culture (not necessarily the same culture of the country..), nonetheless, we know that our potential as human beings is affected by things happening on the other side of the world. We can take it for granted.

AI, as it is being developed in some Silicon Valley start-up, could affect the way my sons are going to study and work. Scientific discoveries, wherever they occur, impact the way I’m ageing. The way we eat, the way we breathe, the weather, all is the result of global forces at play.

And most of the issues our political leaders are trying to deal with are just out of reach for any single state, they are continental, if not global.

Climate change, mass migrations, terrorism. Global issues, requiring global solutions.

And we assist powerlessly in many states to the fragmentation and the crisis of democracy.

It is no surprise to me. It’s just the end of an era – the age of the nation-state – and the difficulty of accepting a new reality. The challenge of creating new democratic formulas and new ways of interacting in the political space for this new world.

It may appear just a theoretical problem: abstract, fuzzy and far from our personal experience.

But what if facing this new reality becomes necessary to your business plan as a company? Understanding how global issues and disruptive technology are going to impact your industry may be crucial.

What if you are trying to design new curricula for your education system?

What if you are struggling to preserve a welfare system in the destructive competitive world?

What if you are just a parent and want to prepare your kids for the world they are going to live in?

What if you are politically active  – in a traditional party or in some NGO –  and just want to know how to make an impact and which level of government is really relevant to you?

These are really the questions I want to answer to, in some way.

I have spent some years now on this topic, which I call supranational democracy: reinventing democracy for the globalized world. But I perfectly know that a single person or even 10 or 100 will not really go very far.

Moreover, I see this challenge as multi-disciplinary and intercultural. And I’d love to be a catalyst for a much wider research and discussion.

Finally, I don’t see this as an academic challenge, period. It’s a challenge for humanity: academicians and businessmen, artists and activists, just everybody, should join forces.

A first attempt is the Supranational Democracy Dialog we are organizing in Lecce in April.

But, believe me, this is just the beginning. Are you with me?

Identifying and Solving World Problems: the SIMPOL Solution.

SIMPOL is not a typo. It means Simultaneous Policy.

And this is the solution to the world problems offered by two brilliant minds: John Bunzle and Nick Duffell.

SIMPOL

If you read their original and provocative book “Our world is in a mess. Here is the SIMPOL solution“, then come to discuss it with me, we are going to have epic conversations!

I will tell you two of the reasons which made me love this book and read it in one breath.

The first reason is the clarity in identifìying the n.1 public enemy we face when it comes to managing world economy – how useless it appears nowadays targeting growth, shared prosperity and equality when everything seems to push us in the opposite direction.

This enemy is competition. Not the (almost) healthy competition we can see inside a legal order, among competitors who respect the same sets of rules – tax rules, labor rules, bureaucracy and foremost antitrust rules – but in the global arena, outside any rule.

Where nobody can be punished for unfair competition.

Where it is pretty normal that big multinational company move towards tax havens or countries who become tax havens just for them.

Where it is considered acceptable to invest in countries where labor standards are incredibly low and poverty will push people of any age – even children – to work in terrible conditions and to work for almost nothing.

Where these big competitors can easily wipe out the small ones, who cannot move so easily, don’t get special tax deals and struggle while states complacently behave like reverse Robin Hoods: taking from the poor to benefit the rich.

Why so? Because they have to remain competitive or they will lose in the big game of world economy and – if the big ones go away – they will face even more unemployment and even fewer tax revenues.

Because this is the paradox of destructive global competition: states are the victims, they are in a trap and do not know how to get out of it. This trap made them weaken the welfare systems, struggle with public debt and here and there get close to failure. Simply put, states are just too small to manage this alone.

Before we jump to the conclusions – and I don’t want to spoil too much – I will tell you the second reason which made me love this book: psychology. It doesn’t happen often that a psychotherapist and a businessman join forces to explain us the problems of the world.

As I feel and know for sure – and if you have read some of my posts you know that too – the solutions have to be bigger than states, possibly matching the dimension of problems.

There is an entire cultural shift needed, from the nation-centric to the world-centric approach. This wouldn’t be the first time in history that we, the humanity, move from a political and dimensional paradigm to another: from the tribes to the Westphalian order we took a step or two.  Still, we are stuck in the mourning of a system which doesn’t work anymore. We just cannot let go the myth of sovereign nation.

And here comes the psychotherapist, explaining to us that this is just normal: most of the humanity can be observed living – collectively – in one of the 5 stages of the mourning process: 1. denial and isolation; 2. anger; 3. bargaining; 4. depression; 5. acceptance. 

Reading what happens nowadays through these lenses make it easier to understand current politics. Even the worst of it. It makes us even feel compassion for those grieving the loss of a myth.

The book doesn’t stop here, it offers practical steps to get out of this trap.

What is even better, it encourages us to feel responsible for the state of the world and take a personal stance to push politicians to bring our states out of the game of competition at any price, adopting simultaneous political choices agreed with other states when it comes to facing global issues.

The book is filled with brilliant insights and provided me the definition of what I am: a “late world-centric”, meaning a person who sees the whole world as a dynamic organism, looks for global solutions with a holistic approach, accepting and respecting all cultures in their own context.

This envisaged cultural shift made me think of the integral theory by Ken Wilber and of the “human colossus” represented in a sketch of Tim Urban’s brilliant post “Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future.

We can’t walk this path alone, we – the early world-centric – need to spread the word because only a critical mass and an active one, pushing political elites, can help humanity move to the final stage of grievance: acceptance. Then, the cultural shift will occur: embracing a new model.

Thank you, John and Nick, for your clarity, your explanations and to make me feel that I’m in good company.

 

 

Why Democracy is Declining

It’s no surprise that democracy is in a deep crisis, a glance at the democracy index by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit shows it clearly. According to it, only 4.5% of the world’s population lives nowadays in a “full democracy”. It was 9% only few years ago.

eui

This is even more evident in the very countries we always regarded as examples and bulwarks of democracy – Britain, France, US – the cradles of parliamentarism and of the rule of law.

I don’t say that these countries are not democratic anymore, I just worry about the amazing rise of populism and nationalism there, which are testing the democratic institutions as never before.

We can give so many different explanations for that: sociological, psicological, cultural… the liquid society and the solipsism and egotism of the modern human, the globalisation and rise of technology, the circulation of capitals and the social dumping, but I think that all this is just the background picture.

The real problem is in the dimension of the issues we face nowadays: migration waves, financial crises, global warming, terrorism…

Not one of these problems can be faced by a country alone, hardly by a group of countries acting together, even the European Union is struggling.

Citizens feel insecure, unsupported, and they expect answers from their political leaders, and from their governments. After all, this was the reason why the modern state was created in the first place: to offer security. Unfortunately, no state can offer this, not anymore.

Only populist politicians still offer promises and guarantees, do they know how illusory these are? Do their electors know?

And the easiest promise of all is the nationalist one: shutting the world out of the door, raising walls, guarding borders,  stopping people. Our country first… and only.

I understand the fear which originates these reactions and I am not here to add judgment and blame on the already excessive amount of judgment and blame we see around. I just don’t think this will work… if not to buy some time before the same problems knock to our doors again and again.

The solutions to these problems are difficult to imagine and hard to communicate. Nonetheless they do exist.

Just have a look at the agenda for Sustainable Development Goals  and at the countless initiatives started by private citizens to improve the state of the world, such as Geoversive, SimPol, the Good Country, ICRCCEN, Global Citizen, Business Fights Poverty,  and my list could go on and on…. Other solutions are possible and – even if we don’t see them on TV shows or in the news- other people are already thinking of them.

The decline of democracy can be stopped in two ways: one is in the hands of governments and it is the cooperation for the common good, the other is in our hands as citizens and it is in owning the awareness that we are global citizens and claiming for solutions at national and at global level.

Only stepping into our power, supporting and joining the initiatives and the causes aimed at solving our common problems we can still feel proud citizens of our state and and of this world.

 

 

 

Refugees as Global Actors

 

Image: UNHCR

Image: UNHCR

Some days ago I came across this beautiful petition (thanks Twitter!), which resonates with my assumption that individuals should have a say about issues and policies which impact on their life, even when they are managed at global level.

I copy/paste it here for you to read and possibly sign:

Internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile unite!

Europe is presently facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of people are being displaced in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other parts of the world, and many are trying to reach Europe, not only because they hope to be safe there, but also because of the political rights Europeans enjoy and take for granted: the right to free expression, the right to vote and so forth.

Yet, those few who do make it to Europe find themselves excluded from public life, without political rights and without a voice. To challenge that, we, people displaced by force, together with some NGOs and other stakeholders, are starting to organise ourselves with a view to creating new democratic structures both locally and internationally, so that in future internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile can offer themselves as dialogue partners to local councils, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the UN.

If you would like to support this initiative, please sign this petition now. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you agree, you can sign it here.

After a Skype conversation with Nico Andreas Heller, promoter of the initiative and founding director of the Democracy School, I found out that this petition is the tip of the iceberg of a wider process, aimed at creating an International Committee of Refugees (ICR), a directly elected, democratically accountable, representative body for internally displaced persons, refugees and people living in exile.

The challenge is tremendous: refugee camps host people from different cultures, religions, life experiences and many of them could have no experience of democracy at all (or don’t buy my or your idea of democracy).

They escape from different realities and for different reasons. They are over 65 millions nowadays and this number could increase over time as it is very possible to imagine climate refugees in the next future, fleeing from extreme climate events.

How the population of a camp could be represented? How the camp could have some kind of self-government to manage its specific needs and solve its internal problems? How the global population of refugees could dialogue with states and international fora – the UN in the first place – about their future?

From a strictly legal point of view, we need to consider that individuals are not unanimously considered subjects of international law, they cannot create an international organization, but just a non-governmental organization (NGO). They cannot dialogue on equal footing with states and international organizations but just enjoy – here and there – a limited observer status.

Nonetheless, an International Committee of Refugees would give them the rights to be aknowledged and to be heard. Which seems to me the minimum threshold for global civic rights. The mobilisation to explore innovative solution is on its way, and we are all invited, you can join it here.

I want to mention another beautiful project, the Project Love  – promoted by the architect and life coach Gregorio Avanzini -intended to create a holistic and scalable solution for refugee camps which includes everything from meeting basic human needs ( nutritious food; clean water; shelter; health care; education; emotional support). This too is an open initiative and everybody could offer his/her own expertise to make a difference.

We cannot ignore that we are facing  “the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II”( quoting UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon) and one of the biggest issues in the XXI Century. Denial will just make it bigger.

It’s time to consider people not just as part of the problem, but as part of the solution.

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.