The Role and Impact of the Right of Petition as an Instrument of Participatory Democracy in the European Union

Paper by Alberto Alemanno: “Petitioning represents the oldest, most accessible, permanent and general-purpose participatory mechanism for any individual who intends to enter into contact with the EU institutional apparatus. As such, the right to petition provides EU citizens and residents with a simple means of contacting the European institutions with complaints or requests for action in relation to “orphan” or “dormant” issues that fail to get the attention and action of other European Parliament committees or EU institutions, in particular concerning problems related to the application of EU law at the national and local level. The right to petition plays different and complementary functions, from administrative and political oversight over the EU Commission and the Member States to legislative agenda-setting, while offering a unique mechanism of representation for individuals and minorities – such as non-EU citizens, migrants and minors – who currently lack such representation. There are, however, still some major structural issues over effectively ensuring the exercise of the right to petition and the full realisation of its multiple democratic functions within the current EU participatory infrastructure. It does so at time the EU undergoes a major democratic exercise – the Conference on the Future of Europe – that, for the first time since 2007, may lead to institutional reform and put to test democratic innovations, such as citizens’ assemblies at the transnational level. Against this background, this study identifies and systematises the EU petition system’s major flaws – focusing on its design, accountability and actual practice – in order to provide a set of recommendations on how to strengthen the role and impact of the right of petition as the privileged instrument of EU participatory democracy…(More)”.