The European Citizens Initiative (or the concept of participatory and direct democracy)

The World

we are all greeks nowThe same old story

According to the Times, the 2011 person of the year was the protester. And rightly so. 

From the Arab Spring to the 15M movement in Spain, which sparked the Indignants Movement demanding 'Real Democracy NOW!' that then spread across Europe, the protests in Greece to the Occupy movement now touching even the US and the UK, protests were ripe. It goes to show that people are not happy. People are not happy with their leaders. People are not happy with the current socio-economical situation, whether it is in autocratic regimes or even in the so-called free world; even in the so-called democratic countries.

The parallel between the Arab and the West protests, widely dodged by Western reporters 'so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore protests against "democratic" Western governments' is eloquently described by Mr Fisk

"[...] Egypt belonged to Mubarak Inc, Tunisia to Ben Ali Inc, Libya to Gaddafi Inc. And so on. The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to prove that their countries belonged to their own people.

And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against "governments". […] fraudulent democracies [that] hand their democratic mandate and people's power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, [and who] maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters. [...]"

It is thus evident that even in the West the people are frustrated with their leaders; with their (supposedly) representatives. The same governments that were so keen to bailout the banks during the start of the financial crisis are now being attacked in the financial markets by these same institutions they once told their people they ought to protect. These governments that are now comprised by former bankers and former employees of the institutions that helped put us in this mess in the first place.

How can the same person that was Governor of the Bank of Greece, when Greece was helped to hide its debt to enter the eurozone, become Vice President of the European Central Bank and recently be appointed (i.e. not elected) as Greece’s Prime Minister?

This is not new. It has been a long tradition that, for example, officials in the US government are appointed from Big Business positions, not least the former US Secretary of the Treasury (who previously served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Goldman Sachs). In 2008, Paulsonfamously negotiated a hundreds of billions of dollars government deal to buy bad debt that financial firms had incurred; i.e. at the expense of the US taxpayer.

The political slogan now called by the Occupy Movement, “We are the 99%” thus makes sense. It has been argued that

"[...] during periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — [nations] as a whole grew faster and median wages surged; thus creating a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.

During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns.

It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns."


 What has changed

 What has changed this time though is the power of the people to communicate, to mobilise and to share information easily, quickly and efficiently. Sharing information and experience without having to rely on the typical mainstream form of media.

And rightly so. It took the best part of an entire summer (2011) for the BBC (and I assume most of the other national broadcasters) to report on the (peaceful) protests taking place in Spain and Greece. The protests and the movements that ensued were organised and promoted by social networks, similarly to what happened during the Arab spring.

People are relying less and less on the mass media which, more often that not, serve to maintain the status quo. People are realising that right now, they are the media. They are the ones that can report the facts as and when they happen. Technology is ripe to allow this and people are using these tools more and more to show others what is really going on in their country and in the rest of the world.

The movements are there. A simple look in the various groups that exists on facebook demanding 'Real Democracy NOW’ shows that they are now in the hundred of thousands. Now what is needed is making sure that their voices are heard and are taken into account. In this respect a concept of direct and participative democracy is taking place all over the world. People are gathering in squares and other public places and putting forward statements drafted by General Assemblies.

This challenges the current political situation were a supposedly representative of the people is elected to promote and protect their rights during a 4-year mandate. Because of the lack of transparency, the elected government is generally free to do what it wants during these four years, as there is no control and evaluation mechanism from its people.

There exists however a European Citizen’s Initiative that allows European citizens to bring forward proposals for legal acts in areas where the Commission has the power to do so. This initiative requires that 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of the EU Member States suggest legislations to be presented to the European Commission to vote on.

This kind of participatory and direct democracy could be applied locally in the individual EU countries, should the people decide to do so.

As the official launch of the European Citizens' Initiatives is in the 1st of  April 2012 and knowing that several general elections in the EU countries are set to be after that date, it is important for people to start mobilising themselves and agree on some common legislations that could be applied in the EU as a whole and/or in their respective countries. This could be the start of the grouping of a critical mass of people (EU, national or international in doesn't really matter) that will generally push forward legislations that are to change the status quo.

In this respect, I present here an initiative of bringing an independent group of economists and lawyers (as was done in Ecuador) in order to assess the current state of Greece’s debt and estimate how much of this can be declared as Odious.

Knowing quite well how much greek political and sociological structures were corrupt, it is highly likely that a part of Greece’s accumulated debt is an Odious Debt; a national debt incurred for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation and thus that should not be enforceable.

Let us make this initiative the first of many where for once us, the people, can drive politics.

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