Volume 48 (2011) / Issue 6
The citizens' initiative is a novel instrument for direct democratic participation in the functioning of the European Union which was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon and given effect through the adoption of Regulation 211/2011. This article examines the background, context and content of the Citizens' Initiative, before turning to consider two main sets of legal issues: who precisely a citizens' initiative may claim to represent; and what a citizens' initiative may realistically seek to achieve. It is argued that (on paper at least) the Treaties and Regulation 211/2011 have together created a relatively weak instrument: one which is likely to be activated only by organised civil society; and in any event appears heavily dependent upon mediation through the Union institutions. But whatever its fate as a tool of participatory democracy, the citizens' initiative engages in new and potentially fruitful ways with various broader issues of Union law: for example, the prospects for building a truly borderless Union citizenship; the place of third country nationals within the political dimension to European integration; and the complex task of interpreting and reconciling the Union's core values and objectives.
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