ALEMANNO A. - European Democracy : Citizen Participation in and beyond Elections (8h)

Professor : Alberto Alemanno

Academic assistant: Íñigo MARTÍN MONTERRUBIO

Ahead of the next European elections, this workshop intends to provide a strategic, timely and hands-on understanding of the various channels of participation (and influence) that the EU currently offers to citizens and organisations at a times of democratic erosion and shrinking space of civil society.

Despite the recurrent claims of democratic deficit and opaqueness, the EU offers a panoply of avenues of participation that while little known, and – as a result – historically underused, are increasingly mobilised by a variety of actors. These avenues are open to citizens, grassroots, NGOs – that typically rely on both public and philanthropic funding – as well as by private actors in order to gain a voice in EU policy-making. The ‘EU participatory tool-box’ includes agenda-setting tools, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative and Fit for Future Platform, input mechanisms in policy formation, such as public consultations on new initiatives, administrative actions, such as petitions to the European Parliament, requests for access to documents to the EU institutions and complaints to the EU Ombudsman, as well as judicial devices, such as amicus curiae brief to influence a pending case before EU Courts. Through a combination of fish-bowls, brain-storming, group exercise and presentations, we will contextualise the state of European democracy by focusing on participatory democracy in the aftermath of the Conference on the Future of Europe. We will be discussing a set of case studies of some major pan-EU campaigns and actions driven by citizens (e.g. Voters without Borders, Transnational lists, Stop Glyphosate, STOP TTIP, Barrosogate, etc.). By acting under the guidance of the instructor, participants will gain a first-hand experience of these participatory mechanisms into the EU public sphere and provide recommendations on how to improve their operation.

The workshop will consist of 4 sections organised over 2 in-class sessions:

Class 1

1. The EU Turn to Participation: An opening lecture combined with major brainstorming about the rationale of participatory democracy in the EU context.

2. The EU Participatory Tool-box: Discussion and first-hand simulation of the EU participatory tool-box through the examination of the daily operation of various participatory channels – both institutional (such as ECIs, public consultations, and EP petitions) and unconventional (such as digital campaigning, and astroturfing) – deployed in the EU policy space.

In-between class 1 and 2

3. The EU Participatory Project: Choice and preparation of individual or collective participatory projects consisting of a simulated or real-life participatory experience with the EU (e.g. request for access to document, submission to a public consultation, drafting of a letter of complaint, ECI registration, etc). This project can be related to a cause you deeply care about, your Master’s thesis, future research article, blog post or Op-Ed as well as to the benefit of a NGO you’d like to assist. In doing so, you will rely on the how-to-guide developed in “Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society”.

Class 2

4. The EU Participatory Pitch:  spark talks of 3 minutes for each project, followed by Q&A and debrief from instructor and peers. This final part of the workshops will provide a final debate on the state-of-the-art of EU participatory democracy and wrap-ups.



Alemanno, Alberto and Nicolaïdis, Kalypso, Citizen Power Europe, in A. Alemanno and P. Sellal, The Groundwork of European Power, RED (Revue Européenne du Droit), Issue 3, January 2022,

Alberto Alemanno, Leveling the EU Participatory Playing Field: A Legal and Policy Analysis of the Commission’s Public Consultations in Light of the Principle of Political Equality, European Law Journal, 2020.

Alberto Alemanno, Towards a Permanent Citizens’ Participatory Mechanism in the EU, European Parliament, European Parliament (AFCO Committee), September 28, 2022.

Alberto Alemanno, Unboxing the Conference on the Future of Europe: A Preliminary View on its Democratic Raison-d’être and Participatory Architecture, European Law Journal, 2022.

Alberto Alemanno, Unpacking the Principle of Openness in EU Law, Transparency, Participation and Democracy, European Law Review, February 2014, vol. 39, n° 1, pp. 72-90.

Recommended readings:

Luke Cooper et al., The Rise of Insurgent Europeanism. Mapping Civil Society Visions of Europe 2018-2020, LSE Ideas, 2021.

Luis Bouza Garcia, Participatory Democracy and Civil Society in the EU, Agenda-setting and Institutionalisation, Palgrave, 2015.

To know more and act:

Alberto Alemanno, Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society, London: Iconbooks, 2017.



Academic year
2023 - 2024
Course type
ECTS Points