A Democratic Panopticon for the Recovery Fund as a new form of permanent citizen involvement in EU decision-making

14th April 2021 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Conversations for the Future of Europe

Deepening the reach of democracy remains what it has been for the last 200 years: the expansion of the franchise. But franchise does not necessarily express itself through the right to vote in elections in the context of representative democracy, neither necessarily move towards direct democracy . Instead, the question is how to open up the idea Republican ideal of participative democracy or active citizenship. In this regard, amending the democratic script both in the member states and at the EU level requires to craft ways for citizens to be involved in EU politics, policies and decision-making on an-going, permanent basis. In other words, participation needs to become a civic habitus. In the EU, this requires multiple channels of involvements, from a permanent citizens’ assembly to widespread processes of upstream consultations on European laws: Europe needs a kind of democratic panopticon , as a way to subvert Jeremy Bentham original idea. The specific proposal is a permanent citizens control over the disbursement of the 750 billion euro which make up the Next Generation EU funds made available to address the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the first expression of a common European debt these funds and how they are spent must be the object of the highest possible standards. Never before has the imperative of no taxation without representation been so important: can we update it to call for no EU funds without participation ? Today the envisaged role of European citizens in allocating those funds is marginal although never before has the EU invested on such a scale in its member states. The Treaty on European Union does state after all: This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen (art 1). It is time for the EU, its central institutions and their expressions at the national and local level to put its money where its voices are and take seriously the requisite of citizens’ empowerment called for by a mature democratic politics.

This is the first of four Conversations for the Future of Europe in 2021.

Professor Kalypso Nicolaïdis (EUI and University of Oxford)

Dr. Hannah Werner (Centre for Political Science Research, KU Leuven)
Dr. Albena Azmanova (Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent)



Conversations for the Future of Europe feature one speaker and two discussants and will take place on Zoom.

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Conversations for the Future of Europe 2021

To guide the steps of the European Union and to mobilize its citizens so as tomake such steps possible, it is not enough to analyse the past and criticize the present. It is crucial to concoct concrete proposals for a better future and to subject them to a no-nonsense, multidisciplinary discussion. The conversations for the future of Europe aim to contribute to such a discussion. 

A concern for concreteness and political feasibility should be present throughout, the aim being, as in Robert Schuman’s 1950 declaration, “des réalisations concrètes” rather than vague dreams. However, this should not prevent us from bearing in mind Max Weber’s warning at the end of 

Politik als Beruf : Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. A concern for feasibility is compatible with boldness. Indeed, it may require it.