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A constitution by the people

Manasi Gopalakrishnan
September 14, 2016

A public interest organization called Crowdsource Europe wants citizens to formulate their own constitution. If successful, the document could even replace the Lisbon treaty, the campaign's organizers say.


"Crowdsource Europe is building a platform to work together with all Europeans to create a People's Constitution, by the people, for the people," the organizers said on their website. The goal is to create a document that captures the shared values and collective ideas for the future of Europe.

"We launched the project in May 2016. The motivation was to let the people of Europe decide what the EU should be about. Cooperation within Europe is important, but too often people don't feel connected with the EU where technocrats decide from their ivory tower," the project's organizers Thomas de Groot, Mathijs Pontier and Melissa Koutouzis told DW.

De Groot, Pontier and Koutouzis, who are members of the Amsterdam Pirate Party, want to show the European Parliament that people can work together to shape a European future.

"In the current representative democracy, people have the ability to vote once every several years (five years in the case of the European Parliament). After that, the possibilities for participation are very limited. As a result, many people don't feel represented, and many people don't even make the effort to vote for the European Parliament," they told DW.

Crowdsource Europe's idea of "interactive democracy" helps bridge that gap. In this concept, everyone has the ability to propose ideas and discuss them.

How it works

Thomas de Groot
De Groot has organized this campaign together with his colleagues, Pontier and KoutouzisImage: picture alliance/chromorange/R. Märzinger

Writing a constitution, especially the way de Groot and his partners Pontier and Koutouzis envisage it, is very easy. Interested people can log on to the People's Constitution website (https://peoplesconstitution.eu/). A "How-to" tab explains users the ways in which they can enter their details and descriptions of laws they want added into the "constitution."

Articles are added to the final draft if they or similar ideas are "sufficiently popular and not too controversial," the website says. Users can vote on each article to show their support. The article which gets the most votes gets selected for the final document. The page also has a button to enable viewers to share the post on social media.

"Democratically, proposals that are popular enough and not too controversial will get accepted," de Groot, Koutouzis and Pontiers said in an email to DW, adding that if there are enough people to support the idea and relatively lesser people who disagree to the proposal, then the idea is taken in.

"Proposals should be in accordance with the European Convention on Human rights," they added.

EU Verfassung Volksabstimmung in Frankreich Plakat
A 2007 picture shows a poster opposing a vote for implementing the EU constitutionImage: AP

But what if right-wing parties use the platform to propagate their ideologies?

The three activists believe that right-wingers should get involved in the project. "The new constitution should be a constitution for everyone; not just for left-wingers... In order to do so, the project should be spread among many people, so the power of the masses minimalizes the risk of misrepresentation."

If successful, the document could even replace the Lisbon Treaty. "The Lisbon Treaty replaced the European Constitution after it was voted down in several referenda. The text of the Lisbon Treaty is largely the same as the European Constitution that was voted down. To us, this is exemplary to the current democratic deficit in the EU," the organizers said.

Building a European future

The idea of writing a people's constitution for all of Europe was inspired by Iceland's experiment in redrafting the document. "In Iceland, 1000 randomly selected citizens held an assembly that lead to a 700-page advice about principles and values that should be in the new Constitution," de Groot, Pontiers and Koutouzis explained.

A milestone for the European Union - as the Lisbon Treaty to reform the EU comes into force

Twenty-five selected citizens, out of a council of 522, held assemblies and wrote the Constitution. They also asked for feedback on social media. "In a referendum, two-thirds of the Icelandic citizens supported the Constitution but it was killed by the conservative Icelandic government," they said. Now, Iceland's Pirate Party, which is currently leading the polls, has made it a major point in the elections.

Crowdsource Europe also uses the same platform as was used in the Iceland project. Called YourPriorities, the e-democracy platform lets users post ideas, discuss them and vote them up or down.

Until now, the project has received over 40 ideas and comments. "Top ideas include, 'more transparency,' 'separation of church and schools,' and 'basic income,'" the organizers told DW.

The goal of the project is to build a European future, "in which the EU is a platform that facilitates cooperation between European citizens," the activists said. Ultimately, it is the people who decide together what the European Union should or should not do. That is the final aim of letting people write their own constitution.