Democratic Conventions, why and how?

Let us face the truth, Europe failed to deliver what she was supposed to deliver. Apart of the Euro, there is no single current global issue where Europe brings something really relevant to solve our today’s problems. In terms of climate change, refugees’ crisis, terrorism, defense, increase of poverty, transition to the digital economy and society, Europe is terribly absent or fully irrelevant where she is in theory the true leverage power which we desperately need. We all suffer from this non-Europe, which has totally discredited the European project. And therefore we entered in what Ulrike Guerot so rightly call the weimarization of Europe.

The States, and particularly their Heads and Heads of Government, are fully responsible for this failure. As well as the political class in general. Not to mention the complicity of the media, or the guilty silence of too many of us.

The problem today is that we do not see how an efficient re-foundation of Europe could come from those having destroyed Europe. And it would be quite naive to think that a great speech in La Sorbonne or on the Pnyx would alone be sufficient to suddenly by magic change the deep reality of our current Europe and unify this fully fragmented continent, for it to finally deliver the solutions it is supposed to deliver.

We can already imagine what will be the next European elections if we do not wake up and immediately work on alternatives. Each country will use this meeting-point with its voters in order to discuss some national questions. Or those really speaking about Europe, and doing so positively, will speak with words which became void for the voters, peace, absence of any alternative, or the supposed strength of an union which did not deliver but, believe us, surely will. And the others will come with much more stronger and efficient words to express all their negative emotions, frustrations and resentments against a Europe which too much and to long despised them.

Do we really want to continue on this suicidal route? In fact we won’t be able to, because if we do, we would quickly really crash. And we are not far from it.

Therefore the idea of Emmanuel Macron to totally change the approach, dare to test a new democratic path, and look for the direct help of the Europeans citizens through democratic conventions. For the European people to re-appropriate the European idea and rally for the Europe they really want.

But 17 months before the European elections we still did not hear anything very much concrete about the democratic conventions. The good thing is that the civil society is starting to take the topic seriously and start to come with some ideas. And therefore my contribution to the debate:

In my opinion the re-foundation of Europe should proceed from three main stages:

  • first, the organization of democratic conventions in order to define a European program for the next European elections: the agenda of the 5 next years to come in Europe;
  • then, a European Grande Marche in order to mobilize the European people on this European program and for the vote in favour of the political movements which would stand for this program;
  • and finally in case these political movements win the elections, then we may need a second democratic convention to write the possible institutional changes, or event the possible new Treaty (a true Constitution?) that we would need in order to fully and efficiently implement this program.

The first, programmatic democratic convention can rely on the experience already gathered by few experiences already made in this field. The recourse of democratic convention is not only a big help to think out of our fully paralyzed European box, but it is also the sign that our democracy needs to go beyond the more and more sterile demagogy of our current representative democracy. We need to add a new component that some already call the deliberating democracy, and where citizens forums accompanied by experts, help the representative institutions to define more consensual solutions through deliberation.

We could envisage such an organization of the whole process:

  • a European Committee to control the fairness of the organization of the DemConv. Max 15 members, out of which max 3 politicians. These 15 Members should be approved, but not chosen, by the current European Parliament.
  • A first layer of citizen assemblies,
    • hopefully spontaneously gathered, if not organized with the help of the European Committee
    • 100 members per assembly
    • something like 10% of experts, 10% of elected politicians, 40% of volunteers, 40% of citizens drawn –
    • Plus one digital pan European platform open to everybody;
    • and the organisation of many conferences and debates on the questions discussed by this first layer assemblies
  • a second layer constituted by a European assembly of 89 members, 3 by Member States (including the UK), all coming from the first layer assemblies, one elected by the members of the national assemblies, 2 drawn, and 5 members representing the digital platform. The European Assembly should draft the program for the European Election.
  • Each assembly, what ever the layer and the country, should deliver exactly the same job: to answer to the same questions which are:
    • What should precisely be done at the European level? (Europe, what for?)
    • What should be the governance and the democratic control of the administration in charge of the implementation of the European policy in each of these fields?
    • Should we do it always all together and at the same rhythm?
    • How Europe should deal with those not following the European rules?
    • What are the geographical borders of the European project?
    • How should we monitor the conflicts between the different levels of administration, Cities-Regions-States-Europe?

The first layer assemblies should be constituted latest end of March 2018, deliver their copy within six months, i.e. latest end of September 2018. The European Assembly should start its work on 1st October 2018 and deliver its copy latest end of March 2019.

This would leave 2 months of campaign through a European Grande Marche mainly structured on a presentation of the project through a door-to-door campaign and through a digital one.

During all this process we would already prepare the Second Democratic Convention, which would write the necessary amendments to the existing Treaties, or dare to write a true European Constitution. First the organization of this Second Democratic Convention should be defined latest end of April 2018. In my view 15% of its members should be experts, 15% elected politicians, 30% volunteers drawn, 30% non-volunteers citizens drawn.

From May 2018 to May 2019 the Second DemConv should already be gathered in order to prepare itself and be ready for starting its active sessions after the new European Parliament would instruct it to proceed to the drafting of the treaty changes.

Urgent brainstorming: what do you think of all that? Thank you very much for your comments and suggestions.


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  1. Merci Laurent pour ce texte stimulant. C’est encourageant que la proposition de conventions démocratiques motive autant. Personnellement, il me semble important que ces conventions soient (1) clairement citoyennes, avec un panel tiré au sort et non de volontaires, pour représenter une opinion qui ait une signification au-delà des participants ; (2) transversales, car le faire dans des pays sans discussion au-delà des frontières n’ajoute pas grand chose à ce qu’on sait déjà par les eurobaromètres, etc ; (3) soient clairement « commissionnées » par les autorités publiques. J’en dis plus ici : (malheureusement il faut être abonné pour lire l’entièreté semble-t-il) et Diana Chwalisz dit grosso modo la même chose (, là aussi pour abonnés…). Bonne réflexion !

    • merci beaucoup Stephen pour ce commentaire. J’ai finalement trouvé un lien sur internet donnant à tous l’accès sur l’article :
      I make here a very brief summary in English of your comment and of the article since I found it extremely interesting :
      – your comment: need to be a sortition forum not a panel of volunteers / need to be transnational without 2 the layers I suggested / need to be clearly mandated by the public authority.
      – the article :

      The success of a citizens consultation depends from the quality of the citizens sample (its representativity) and the quality of the debate.

      One method already tested and having already delivered good results is the Deliberating opinion poll. It answers to the question: what do people think about a collective issue in good debate conditions?

      You do an opinion poll on a representative sample of the population, before and after this sample had the possibility to deeply deliberate. You needs to provide to the chosen sample some fair and balanced documentation. You need also to use trained moderators facilitating the discussions in samples divided randomly in small groups of 12-15 people, alternating discussions in small committees and plenary sessions with experts and decision makers who don‘t do any presentation but only answer to the questions asked by each group.

      The opinion of the population is then gathered thanks to a detailed questionary filled in before and after deliberation.

      This would be much better than frustrating everybody by organising a debate without any method.

    • I very much appreciate the maturity of the substance of your answer. And I think we can understand now where the idea of the Citizens Consultations came… Since the French administration does not speak anymore about Democratic Conventions but about Citizens Consultations.
      I am therefore keen to take many of your points. However on the necessary mandate given by the public authority, here I would qualify. In order to be legitimate this initiative has to been mandated, but instead of waiting for months for a possible mandate from the EU or its Member States, I would rather look for a mandate of a platform keen to use the results of the consultation to build the program of a European political movement running for the 2019 elections. It could be through the European Parliament (ideal), it could be from some political parties or European movements. What do you think?

  2. Bonjour Laurent, concernant le « mandat », l’important c’est que ça serve. Des citoyens qui débattent entre eux, c’est toujours utile (information, formation de l’opinion, mobilisation de la citoyenneté, etc), mais moins qui si les autorités publiques s’en saisissent. Effectivement connecter les conventions aux élections de 2019 et faire en sorte que les partis s’en servent pour former leur programme serait un beau résultat. Affaire à suivre…