Democratic Empowerment in the European Union
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Democratic Empowerment in the European Union

Edited by David Levi-Faur and Frans van Waarden

This book looks at democratic empowerment via institutional designs that extend the political rights of European citizens. It focuses on three themes: first, the positive and negative effects of the European Union institutional design on the political rights of its citizens; second, challenges for democratic regimes across the world in the 21st century in the context of regionalism and globalization; third, the constraints of neoliberalism and capitalist markets on the ability of citizens to effectively achieve their political rights within the Union.
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Chapter 4: Taking stock of the European Citizens’ Initiative: democratic potential and possible institutional trajectories

Fernando Mendez, Roman Zwicky and Daniel Kübler


Chapter 4 by Fernando Mendez, Roman Zwicky and Daniel Kübler deals with the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) from a comparative perspective. In this chapter the authors take stock of the European Union’s most recent democratic innovation, the ECI, with a view to evaluating its potential to live up to its democratic potential. In doing so they adopt a threefold strategy. First, they unpack the institutional features of the ECI to situate it within a broader universe of relatively well-understood mechanisms of direct democracy. Second, on the basis of an analysis of all ECI initiatives to date, they present some general trends regarding its use and functioning. The third, more speculative, analysis looks at possible institutional trajectories for the ECI based on our largely comparative analysis. Their findings suggest that the ECI is far from being unique and that some of the problems that surround its functioning are common to other systems. In addition, despite its novelty, they can already detect some general patterns as well as indirect effects on member states. Whether the instrument could ever fulfil its democratic potential, let alone empower European citizens, remains very much an open question. The evidence thus far presents a mixed picture.

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