The European Party Manifestos: Who is Afraid of Democracy?

2024 Jun 4th

The European Party Manifestos: Who is Afraid of Democracy?

In general – apart from The Greens, Volt Europe, and DiEM25 – most European Parties shy away from endorsing citizen participation in Europe. Various European parties do not prioritise making European citizens and residents part of European democratic processes nor do they propose the democratization of the Union’s institutions. 

Here we compare the European Pary manifestos on some of our main democratic proposals:

A core purpose of the Conference on the Future of Europe was discussing and practicing the democratic innovation of the EU. In fact, one of the proposals of the citizens was a permanent European Citizens Assembly (our point 1). Only DiEM25, The Greens, and Volt mention this in their manifestos. DiEM25 promotes a ‘pan-European Citizens Assembly, drawn by sortition across the continent’, The Greens endorse the ‘introduction of citizens’ panels to make EU policy choices more inclusive’ and Volt wants a ‘permanent European Citizens’ Assembly… with rotating membership’, and to establish the ‘Conference on the Future of Europe as a recurring event’.

A further main point we make as CTOE is that it is unavoidable to change the Treaties (as put forward by the European Parliament), but any such process needs to explicitly include citizens in deliberations. CTOE calls for an inclusive-participatory process of Treaty change. This is somewhat supported by The Left, that wants a ‘thorough public debate on the future of Europe’, which includes civil society. The Greens argue that a ‘democratic mandate from citizens is vital’. For Volt, it is important to ‘engage through citizen debates, while DiEM25 is the most radical in its claim for ‘Constitutional People’s Assemblies’.

CTOE has been campaigning for saving and strengthening the European Citizens’ Initiative, turning it into a real participatory instrument. This call for a stronger ECI is equally endorsed by The Greens, who stress the need to oblige ‘European institutions to respond with legislative proposals.’ The Free Alliance equally stresses the need for legislative proposals by the Commission to follow up to successful ECIs. Volt puts forward a number of reforms of the ECI (lower number of signatures needed, improving online signature collection). DiEM25, in contrast, is very critical of the ECI and suggests to replace it entirely with a pan-European Citizens Assembly.

The Conference on the Future of Europe also endorsed a pan-European referendum. This was initially taken forward in the European Parliament, to be dropped in its final resolution on Treaty change in late 2023. CTOE continues to endorse a European referendum that can be initiated by citizens. Only the Greens endorse an EU-wide referendum too.

CTOE’s proposal – also one of the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe – “An empowering European digital platform for participation, accessible through a European Digital Citizenship”, was not mentioned in any of the European Party manifestos.

For a visual analysis of the democratic impulse in the European Party manifestos for the 2024 European Elections, see