A Small-States Perspective on the European Citizens’ Initiative

Maximilian Conrad


The introduction of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) in the Lisbon Treaty has given the European Union (EU) its strongest element of transnational participatory democracy to date. One million EU citizens from at least seven different member states can now request legislative proposals from the European Commission. This article discusses the ECI from a small-states perspective, assessing its impact on the role of small-state citizens in the union. The theoretical argument draws both on the international relations literature on small states and on James Bohman’s work on transnational democracy, suggesting that the ECI is a particularly fruitful tool that gives EU citizens an institutional incentive for initiating deliberation on perceived injustices. The empirical argument presents the findings of a quantitative analysis of the organizers of the first sixteen initiatives, suggesting that the ECI is indeed a tool used by citizens from the union’s smaller states. However, the analysis also shows that state size can and should be conceptualized not merely in terms of traditional indicators such as most importantly population size, but also in terms of constructivist notions of perceptual size.


European Union (EU); European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI); transnational democracy; participatory democracy; small states.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2013.9.2.3


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