David van Reybrouck in Politico: “Those looking for a solution to the wave of anger and distrust sweeping Western democracies should have a look at an experiment in European democracy taking place in a small region in eastern Belgium.
Starting in September, the parliament representing the German-speaking region of Belgium will hand some of its powers to a citizens’ assembly drafted by lot. It’ll be the first time a political institution creates a permanent structure to involve citizens in political decision making.
It’s a move Belgian media has rightly hailed as “historic.” I was in parliament the night MPs from all six parties moved past ideological differences to endorse the bill. It was a courageous move, a sign to other politicians — who tend to see their voters as a threat rather than a resource — that citizens should be trusted, not feared, or “spun.”
Nowhere else in the world will everyday citizens be so consistently involved in shaping the future of their community. In times of massive, widespread distrust of party politics, German-speaking Belgians will be empowered to put the issues they care about on the agenda, to discuss potential solutions, and to monitor the follow-up of their recommendations as they pass through parliament and government. Politicians, in turn, will be able to tap independent citizens’ panels to deliberate over thorny political issues.
This experiment is happening on a small scale: Belgium’s German-speaking community, the country’s third linguistic region, is the smallest federal entity in Europe. But its powers are comparable with those of Scotland or the German province of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the lessons of its experiment with a “people’s senate” will have implications for democrats across Europe….(More)”.