This is the transcript of the introductory remarks by Virginia Fiume, EUMANS Coordinator during the EUMANS Public Assembly on the 9th of March.
Starting from the Equal Dignity for Participatory Democracy proposals elaborated by EUMANS and the two letters sent to Commissioner Vera Jourova with the promoters of the ongoing European Citizens Initiatives, the introductory remarks launched the idea - then voted by the EUMANS Members and Activists - of promoting the 9th of May as the first EU SIGN DAY. An opportunity to celebrate the future of Europe and not only its past. But also to guarantee the adequate level of information on participatory democracy instruments - to increase the impact of these instruments in the European public debate.
Join other EUMANS Activist to brainstorm on the 9th of May
Welcome to the 3rd EUMANS Members’ Assembly.
My first thanks go to Monica and her colleague for donating their time as professional interpreters to allow us to hold our Assembly in Italian and English. And to the people who donated last week for the subscription of the media partnership with VoxEurop. We collected the 1480 euros we needed in less than 24 hours. This will allow us to increase the reach of everything we will discuss tonight across different EU languages in the next months.
And of course all of the activists that in the past weeks and months decided to put their time, energies and ideas in action.
Our Statute commits us to hold an Assembly every three months.
This formality is an important stepping stone. It is an opportunity to:
- Remind us of our statutory mission and align our daily actions to this compass: create a pan-European Movement of popular and nonviolent initiatives
- Review the effectiveness and strength of the existing institutional participatory democracy instruments - starting from the European Citizens Initiatives - to make change happen for democracy and sustainability
- Insert the daily tasks and achievements within the “larger picture” of the European political debate within the European public sphere.
“A winner is a dreamer who never gave up”.
This is one of the most famous quotes by Nelson Mandela - undeniably one of the most effective political leaders.
If there is one lesson that I learned from Mandela’s story is that the political goals that we want to achieve should become a “systemic change”. It’s the difference between a real victory and a simple ego-boosting achievement. The second lesson that comes from the history of South Africa is also that systemic changes need to be constantly refined, defended, improved.
In these introductory remarks I want to focus on a concrete proposal around which we should build our action in the next few weeks.
We often say that we think Participatory Democracy should have equal dignity to be an effective political integration to representative democracy.
If we don’t critically think in these terms, we risk to remain dreamers.
But what does this “equal dignity” mean?
How proposals such as the one we carry on for a European Carbon Pricing through stopglobalwarming.eu (or the others that will be presented tonight by the Universal Basic Income and the Legalization of File Sharing) can be known by European Citizens?
How can these proposals become part of the POLITICAL PUBLIC DEBATE and part of what political journalists at National and European level covers every day?
And most importantly, how these proposals carried on with extraordinary efforts by citizens committees - committees that often rely only on volunteers and self-funding - can become a real option on the tables of the law-makers and not a pure “token exercise”
The Conference on the Future of Europe itself can be such a decision making table - but we don’t even know when this “exercise” as the Joint Declaration of the EU Institution calls it - is going to start.
Later our invited guests - who I warmly welcome because they represent some of the most interesting, engaged, and collaborative voices of a growing wave of Engaged European Citizens - will offer us some perspectives on the origins and the actions that motivate different forms of participatory democracy initiatives and why the Conference on the Future of Europe is so important.
Our proposal for tonight is to call for the first EUROPEAN SIGN DAY ON THE 9th OF MAY - in collaboration with all the European Citizens Initiatives Promoters of Europe with whom we recently sent a letter to Vice Commissioner Vera Jourova
To Commissioner Jourova we asked with two letter (december 2019 and february 2021 - in completely different conditions) full support to increase KNOWLEDGE and INFORMATION on the only instrument that can be activated by citizens to push the European Commission (and the Parliament) to act on specific matters.
We see this as a fulfillment of a fully functioning European Democracy.
Before reading the proposed Closing Statement of this Assembly please let me summarise how we came up with this idea of the 9th of May as the first SIGN DAY in the history of the European Union.
- almost two years ago we launched and prioritized the achievement of a European Carbon Pricing through the activation of the European Citizens Initiative Stopglobalwarming.eu.
After 3 extensions of the deadline for the collection of signatures due to the pandemic. And quiet some experience on the ground. Now we can evaluate the results.
On one side an extraordinary cross-cutting political consensus. On the other side a relatively small number of signatures (a bit more than 54,000). The number is high for the size of our organization, but it is low if we compare it to the incredible political consensus we gained: +90 Mayors, 3 former EU Commissioners, 2 former Presidents of the UN General Assembly, hundreds of intellectuals, artists, organisations, movements, ….)
- With 5 editions of the Council on Participatory Democracy (attended by over 400 European citizens and organisations leaders) we thoroughly explored the challenges and opportunities of institutional instruments of participatory democracy
- We actively participated in the founding and promotion of the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe, in an extraordinary effort of advocacy for the immediate start of the Conference on the Future of Europe and its deployment as a truly citizens-led process to reform the functioning of the European Union and its competencies
- We launched the network Mayors to StopGlobalWarming.eu as a new instrument that combines the pursuit of sustainability goals with the systematization of actions of information towards the citizens about their rights of participation.
Facts on the grounds prove that slowly, one millimeter a day, our analysis and methodology is correct. That there is a growing will to take part in the Future of Europe.
The ingredients are there - but to achieve something seriously ingrained in the decision making processes - we need to make sure that this becomes an institutionalised reform.
This is what we proposed to Commissioner Jourova in our letter requesting
- granular information to all EU citizens about their rights to sign European Citizens Initiatives
- a reform of the role of the EU Info Points to play a role of information of European citizens about their political rights
- a serious involvement and training of European public broadcasters about Participatory Democracy (following the Swiss model)
- a direct engagement with Municipalities and Regions to activate collection points
It is now time to move from the proposal to the direct action.
The 9th of May can be the very first action for the Future of Europe and for claiming back our political rights as European Citizens.
If we will be able to do this, to offer services and support to citizens committees across all Europe, to collaborate all together for the first SIGN DAY in the history of Europe, we can move the needle of our actions. And we can break the silence around a different vision of Europe, for a more democratic and sustainable Europe, we can reinforce European Democracy itself.
And we can be a nonviolent army of little Nelson Mandela.
I will now read our proposed Closing Statement.
EUMANS Members Assembly identifies the date of the 9th of May - Europe Day as a central appointment for the realisation of its Statute’s mission, through the self organisation of the first EUROPEAN CITIZENS INITIATIVE SIGN DAY in the European Union, cooperating and offering full creative and operational support to the promoters of all other ongoing European Citizens Initiatives.
The action day aims to embody the requests made with the two letters sent to Commissioner Vera Jourova (December 2019 and February 2021) and the feedback officially submitted to the European Commission consultation on the Democracy Action Plan demanding Equal Dignity for Participatory Democracy compared with representative democracy in terms of information and resources.
All the EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, Committee of the Regions, European Economic and Social Committee) will be informed about the initiative, with the goal of fostering the maximum level of collaboration.
Who follows EUMANS knows that we don’t operate through “statements” but through actions. So I hope you will be willing to join this extraordinary effort.
It goes from the creation of local collection points on the “PACKAGE” of European Citizens Initiatives across Europe; the involvement of the European Federation of Journalists and the European Public Broadcasters; the involvement of local committees across Europe involved on participatory democracy initiatives at National and local level.
As usual...we will do what we are able to do with our own collective intelligence, and our bodies.
I hope you will like to join this historical action. Who can help European democracy to save itself from national interests and the choking risks of the electoral consensus.
We need this now more than ever.
I will listen to all of you carefully.
Thanks for being here tonight.