A democratic way towards the European Elections - Introductory Remarks to the EUMANS Assembly by Virginia Fiume

This is the content of the introductory remarks to the EUMANS Quarterly Assembly by Virginia Fiume, EUMANS Co-president. the full recording of the assembly and the documents voted are available at this link. 

Dear all,

Welcome to the EUMANS Quarterly Members Assembly.

Let me start with a short quotation from a letter that I found today while finalising the move out from SECO- the Salon of European Civic Organisations near the European Parliament that was OUR office since December 2019.

“We agree with the issue that you raise, in particular the awareness about the existence of the European Citizens Initiative in the European public sphere is of crucial importance for the long-term success of this instrument”….

“Indeed, we have an exceptional obligation to protect our democracies from the impacts of the pandemic; this includes at the European Level, the need to promote this unique instrument for the participation of EU Citizens in the democratic Life of the European Union”.

These are the words that the former  President of the European Parliament. David Maria Sassoli, addressed to me (and consequently to EUMANS) on the 15th of April 2021, as a reply to one of the Open Letters we wrote to demand “EQUAL DIGNITY FOR PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY” in 2021, when we were launching as EUMANS the first EU SIGN DAY. In that occasion, we were coordinating different committees of promoters of European Citizens Initiatives to demand more information, more awareness and more debate around European Citizens Initiatives.

In that situation, we had our very own Stopglobalwarming.eu Carbon Pricing ECI running, we crossed paths with the Voters Without Borders European Citizens Initiative, with the Unconditional Basic Income European Citizens Initiative and many others. And we shared one view:

If you put together all the European Citizens Initiatives you basically have a design of what a socially and economically sustainable European Union could look like, an European Union that takes into account fundamental rights and individual freedoms.

Time has passed. President Sassoli died. And if you read at the so-called Qatar Gate it might seem that European Democracy doesn’t feel very well.

However, just last week another European Citizens Initiative reached its 1 million signatures. It is the third one this year (with Save the Bees and End the Cage).

Yesterday the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on starting a trial application period of a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, a tool to put a fair price on carbon emitted for production of goods entering the EU and a first step towards a global carbon price - which is one fo the main requests of EUMANS.

And just two weeks ago we were as EUMANS and with the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe among the attendees of the Feedback Event of the Conference on the Future of Europe where 450 Citizens from the sortition based citizens panels met the representatives of the three EU Institutions for an exchange on the 49 Recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

As all of you know, increasing the impact of democratic participation and in particular of direct and deliberative instruments is at the core of our mission at EUMANS as a movement of popular and nonviolent initiative. Using and strengthening the instrument of the European Citizens Initiative was at the core of our beginning as a movement. It allowed us to expand our network, to connect with other organisations and individual citizens across the EU, to hold with more credibility our first Congress in Warsaw last year, in the middle of the beginning of the war of aggression against Ukraine.

The title of that congress was” The Open Congress of Citizens for Sustainable Peace, Freedom and Democracy”.

This assembly is the one that determines how we prepare for our next Congress. We already deliberated in the last Assembly that Poland will again be our destination.

The destination that we suggest is GDENSK - and the date that we are aiming for is the last weekend of March (23-26).

We are already trying to combine this Congress with a Transnational European Assembly organised by our partners of European Alternatives and Citizens Take Over Europe on gender-issues.

And we can leverage the important work done for the first Congress.

It is an assembly similar to the one that we held last week in Brussels, where over 55 people from at least 5 different memes states attended and built a declaration on end-of-life decisions and palliative care. That Assembly had also sorted out citizens, thanks to a collaboration with Agora Brussels, a local movement. This series of Assembly is the first funded project by EUMANS, which will allow us to hold another Assembly in Rome in September 2023. These alongside the efforts to institutionalize citizens’ assemblies at all levels is a very important steps. 

This text, alongside with the one on Cannabis and the one on Carbon Pricing prepared for Andrea Salimbeni are already the foundation for new European Citizens Initiatives.

A precious political capital of EUMANS. That goes hand in hand with the great celebration we have to make: the launch of the Italian Public Platform for Digital Democracy (Lorenzo Mineo probably will tell more about this).

We are a small group of people, but we already left some marks.

The statement that we propose to this Assembly for discussion and that I am going to read in a few minutes contains some fundamental milestones of the past months of initiatives of EUMANS and a concrete proposal for a transparent, public and transnational process to arrive until the European Elections.

It aims to do what we have always said: interconnecting participatory and representative democracy.

We ask all of you - those who know EUMANS since day one - and those of you who are joining for the first time to help us to reflect together on this process:

- How it can be stronger

- How we can develop the resources and the instruments to carry it on, starting from membership and fundraising

- How we can make sure that we ensure that the next European Elections are shaken by an injection of democratic participation and lay the foundation for a stronger democracy in the European Union that has at its core the protection of fundamental rights and rule of law and an intersectional approach to reduce inequalities and to ensure the best conditions for the well beings of those who inhabit this planet and …the planet itself.

As Commissioner Suiça said during the feedback event of the Conference on the Future of Europe when she was saying that from now on Sortition Based Citizens Panels will be part of the decision making process of the Union: “We changed European Democracy forever with this experiment”.

A lot still needs to be done, but I think the road done in the past three years can help us to make informed decisions on the future of our movement. And to understand how we can empower each other and the citizens we don’t know yet to make sure the urgencies of our times are tackled.