The European Citizens' Initiative: Promoting Active Citizenship in Transnational Discursive Spheres?

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Maximilian CONRAD , Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Annette KNAUT , University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany
European Union citizenship was introduced in the Maastricht Treaty as a form of activating citizenship. It has to be seen in light of the EU’s democratic and community deficits, considering its double purpose of activating its citizens to engage in EU politics and creating a sense of awareness of European political community. Twenty years later, EU politics is still characterized by a fundamental gap between citizens and the EU institutions. The introduction of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in the Lisbon Treaty raises relevant questions as regards both the democratic and the community deficit. From the outset, the ECI has been hailed as an innovation with the potential to bridge the gap between European citizens and the EU institutions. Such hopes are often connected to a deliberative understanding of politics where processes of communicative power formation in the public sphere are seen as a fundamental precondition for the legitimacy of the EU. The ambition in this paper is to assess the potential of the ECI as a bridge between citizens and institutions. We consider this bridge as ‚made of’ transnational discourses produced by knowledge exchange and transformation. Therefore we analyze how the ECI activates EU citizens by inducing them to (a) identify transnationally shared concerns, (b) set up transnational organizational structures, (c) contribute to the emergence of transnational discursive spheres, which may (d) promote new forms of citizenship. Theoretically, our contribution draws on a concept of publics as transnational networks of discourse by linking a sociology of knowledge approach to discourse to the Habermasian notion of the public sphere as a site of communicative power formation. Empirically, the argument of the paper is illustrated by reference to a limited number of examples of ECIs that will have completed their signature collection by the time of the submission of this paper.