Patrizia Nanz is co-founder of the EIPP. She is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bremen. Over the last ten years she has studied the current transformations of democracy. Against the thesis of political disaffection, Patrizia believes that although citizens increasingly have the feeling not to be able to influence politics they are nevertheless interested in politics and engaged. Citizens’ engagement has become issue-specific, more directly connected to personal interests and less bounded to political parties.
……AND LISTENED TO……
As politics become larger and more heterogeneous and their tasks more complex, the erosion of democratic vitality may seem inevitable. But perhaps the problem is not the size and heterogeneity of a polity nor the tasks political institutions face as such, but the way they are designed to address them.What is needed is a fundamental revitalization of democratic practices, which will empower ordinary citizens in new ways. In this paper we set out a vision of how to establish participation in real world settings and sketch out the biggest challenges facing practitioners of participation today.
SOME THOUGHTS ON PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN EUROPE
1) The disenchantment of citizens with today's politics
In 2005 the European Constitution was rejected in the French and the Dutch referenda. Brussels sent the alliance into two years of soul searching and finally came up with the Reform Treaty. With the "no" of the Irish people in June 2008 it looks like the process of European construction has once again been derailed.Their rejection was a legitimate expression of a clear political will.
It is likely that many European citizens would reject the proposed European Treaty if they had the chance to have a say. They feel frustrated and powerless in relation to the process of European integration pushed through by their heads of states; they feel alienated by EU's convoluted procedures and jargon as well as by its selfreferential leadership.
The dominant picture of European governance remains one of a top-down, opaque and technocratic process involving domestic civil servants and EU officials in a closed policy network, rather than a transparent process of deliberation and decision-making, open to broad participation by all those with a stake in the outcome.