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The Union's founding principles


Democratic life


Introduction
European citizenship
Representative democracy and democratic equality
The principle of participatory democracy
Summary table

INTRODUCTION

"Democratic life" is covered by Title VI of the first part of the Constitution (Articles I-44 to I-51). This title comprises eight articles on, respectively, representative democracy, participatory democracy, transparency, access to documents, protection of personal data, the European Ombudsman, and the role of the social partners and the churches.
This title should be read in conjunction with Article I-8 on European citizenship, Articles II-39 to II-46 relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which restate all the rights associated with European citizenship, and Articles III-9 to III-13, which also deal with this subject.

The draft Constitution reaffirms the rights associated with European citizenship and defines, for the first time, the democratic foundations of the Union. These are based on three principles: those of democratic equality, representative democracy and participatory democracy. Finally, Title VI also brings together certain provisions that were previously scattered throughout the Treaties, on transparency, access to documents and the role of the European Ombudsman, to mention just a few.

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EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP

The rights arising from citizenship of the Union are now set out, in unchanged form, in Article I-8:

Article I-8 also states that citizenship of the Union is additional to national citizenship and does not replace it.

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REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY AND DEMOCRATIC EQUALITY

The inclusion in the text of the principles of democratic equality and representative democracy does not confer new rights on European citizens but confirms principles corresponding to the spirit of the Treaties. Thus, citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. In addition, national governments which send their representatives to the European Counci l and the Council of Ministers are accountable to national parliaments, which are themselves elected by European citizens.

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THE PRINCIPLE OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY

Participatory democracy becomes one of the principles on which the working of the Union is founded.
The main innovation in this area is the inclusion of a right of citizens' initiative. Article I-46 stipulates that a petition with at least one million signatures obtained from a number of Member States may be sent to the Commission inviting it to take a legislative initiative, provided the latter is compatible with the Constitution and, in particular, with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This citizens' initiative does not, of course, affect the Commission's right of initiative.
This major innovation means that, for the first time, the idea of participatory democracy has been brought into the European political arena. It gives those European citizens who complain about the "democratic deficit in Europe" a means of directly making their voices heard. This innovation goes hand in hand with the efforts to clarify the distribution of competences and to simplify legal instruments, whose ultimate purpose is to bring citizens closer to the Community institutions.
The same article also requires the institutions to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society, and to carry out broad consultations with parties concerned.

Apart from Article I-46, the Title on democratic life brings together a number of provisions that are currently scattered throughout the treaties and which are either reproduced in full or extended:

The role of the social partners and of the churches is set out, for the first time, in the draft Constitution.
Article I-47 states that the European Union recognises and promotes the role of the social partners, facilitating dialogue between them and respecting their autonomy.
Article I-51 reproduces and extends the provisions of the "Declaration on the status of churches and non-confessional organisations" adopted by the intergovernmental conference that resulted in the Treaty of Amsterdam. The draft Constitution officially recognises the identity and specific contributions of churches and religious associations as well as those of philosophical and non-confessional organisations, and advocates an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.

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SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject Comments
I-8 European citizenship -
I-44 to I-51 (Title VI) The democratic life of the Union New provisions
I-46 Participatory democracy (right of citizens' initiative)
I-47 The role of the social partners
I-49 Transparency of the proceedings of the institutions Significant changes
I-50 Protection of personal data -
I-51 Churches and non-confessional organisations New provisions
II-39 to II-46 Charter of Fundamental Rights (title on citizenship) -
III-9 to III-13 Citizenship

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Convention.


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