The Democratic Odyssey is a campaign to make a standing European People’s Assembly an integral part of the EU political system. The very first pilot assembly is to take place in Athens, on 26 September 2024, during the Athens Democracy Forum.
The Democratic Odyssey is a decentralized, collaborative, and transparent exercise of crowdsourcing and co-creation kicked-off by a core consortium composed of The European University Institute’s School of Transnational Governance, Particip-Action, European Alternatives, Citizens Take Over Europe, The Democracy and Culture Foundation, Democracy Next, Mehr Demokratie, Eliamep, The Real Deal, Phoenix, The European Capital of Democracy, as well as the Berggruen and Salvia Foundations. This community is open to all who want to be involved.
Threatened from within and outside by the rise of partisan hyper-polarization, authoritarian buy-in, disinformation and electoral interference, European democracy is feeling the squeeze on all sides. How can Europe address citizens’ sense of disenfranchisement? Yes, this is an old and difficult question. But there are pathways to renewal.
For the Democratic Odyssey consortium, part of the solution lies in creating a standing European People’s Assembly that will become a core part of the institutional landscape of the European Union, made of citizens selected by lot, serving on a rotating basis.
“Our vision is that of an interconnected assembly, within the ever-growing network of participatory and deliberative spaces around the continent, in towns and cities, in schools, workplaces and theatres, in political and corporate seats of power.”
As Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis, who is leading the academic work on transnational democracy at the EUI, explains: “Our vision is that of an interconnected assembly, within the ever-growing network of participatory and deliberative spaces around the continent, in towns and cities, in schools, workplaces and theatres, in political and corporate seats of power.” Next year the Democratic Odyssey will put theories into practice by organizing a big prototype transnational assembly in Athens, bolstered by mini-assemblies around Europe before and after.
This project comes at an opportune moment. In the past five years, in Europe, there have been ten national assemblies and around 70 local assemblies on the topic of climate change alone. The EU itself took a huge leap with the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) which integrated transnational, multi-lingual, sortition-based deliberation into the policy making process. However, two years later, we cannot ignore the disappointment of its citizen participants, whose recommendations were left largely unheard.
The Conference on the Future of Europe planted a seed which the Democratic Odyssey wants to make flourish. As James Mackay, the project’s coordinator, declared in a recent interview with European Alternatives: “we are not aiming at making a ‘perfect’ assembly (whatever that would even mean). Our hope is more modest: to offer a “proof of concept” that, in the window between the EP elections but before the new Commissions convenes, can bring grassroots and institutional actors together to consider how citizens’ participation can be institutionalised in the longer term.”