Citizen Participation and Open Government
Democracy Add-On for Europe
Pirates advocate a directly elected citizens’ convention tasked with drafting a new EU treaty to clarify and replace current treaties and address the need for democratic reform within the Union, provided it is accepted by the citizens of the Union through a referendum.
The present EU legislative process is dominated by the executive branch (the European Commission) at the expense of the legislative branch (the European Parliament). Pirates seek an adjustment to the balance of power in European Institutions to favour the legislative branch.
Direct democracy at EU level, i.e. pan-EU referendums on constitutional revisions and citizen-initiated legislative referendums, should be part of the new constitution. Citizens shall have the right both to repeal existing legislation and to initiate new legislation.
Innovating Political Participation
Pirates want citizens to be able to have a more direct and larger impact in the policy debate and decision making process, both individually and collectively.
The European Parliament should set up an e-participation tool. Citizens should be able to publicly discuss legislative proposals, to propose amendments and to support (or vote against) proposed amendments online.
We wish to reform the EU citizens’ initiative. Data requirements shall be reduced. The European Commission should deal even with unsuccessful but interesting initiatives.
Petitioners with a significant number of supporters shall have the right to be heard in person. The European Parliament should open its doors to citizens on a regular basis in order to provide them with the opportunity to directly submit their proposals and concerns to a joint plenary session with Members of the European Parliament and Members of the European Commission. These sessions should also be open to citizens participating remotely via the internet or through social media.
The European Union shall join the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that aims to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
Anti-corruption and Containing Corporate Lobbyism
The influence of money on politics is one of the key corruption risks in the EU and a threat to its democratic foundation. Political decisions will not be made in the best interests of all citizens when corporate interests are allowed to dominate.
Disclosure and Containment of External Influence on Political Decisions
To protect the democratic process and to make the basis of decisions transparent, Pirates call for the disclosure of the influence of interest groups and lobbyists on political decisions. Lobbying activities shall be as transparent as possible. That can be helped by making the existing lobby register mandatory, linked to a transparent calendar on the Internet. Every EU citizen should have a chance to look up with whom the elected representative met, what was the purpose of the meeting and what happened there. The whole process brings demanded multi-level controlling system needed for a reliable democracy. In addition, a legislative footprint shall be published: everyone involved in policy making shall publish their meetings with lobbyists and written input they receive. All draft bills and amendments shall be traceable to their original author.
Enforceable ethics rules and an oversight mechanism for lobbyists shall be introduced. They should prevent lobbyists from exercising undue influence.
Preventing Conflicts of Interest
Public officials (including Commission Special Advisers) and elected representatives (including Rapporteurs) shall not be unduly influenced by private interests in the performance of their public duties. Conflicts of interest can occur with outside activities and previous jobs, but also through revolving door cases of members of parliament, Commissioners or civil servants taking up new jobs in the private sector.
Proper rules must be put in place to ensure that relevant office holders do not have any conflicts of interest, that interests are being declared and that misbehavior is sanctioned. The European Parliament as well as the European Commission Codes of Conduct need to be reformed. Effective transparency and ethics rules are needed for Intergroups and other cross-party groups involving MEPs and lobbyists. An independent body should oversee compliance and impose sanctions where necessary. Comprehensive rules limiting the revolving-doors phenomenon shall be adopted.
Re-democratising the Input Process
Business interests shall no longer dominate policy expertise. The Commission shall introduce effective safeguards against corporate capture of expert and advisory groups, technology platforms and EU agencies. Because a vastly disproportionate number of meetings with EU officials is dedicated to big business, these meetings should be reduced and more time should be devoted to actively seeking input from citizens, SMEs and other currently under-represented interest groups.
Political Campaign Financing
All European political parties shall provide public insight into their bank accounts for campaign funds. The Authority overseeing European political parties shall be given effective auditing and sanctioning tools.
Transparency and Whistleblower Protection
Transparency gives the powerless the power to monitor the powerful. Pirates believe that transparency is needed to allow the public to make democratic decisions.
Pirates advocate for general and comprehensive whistleblower legislation to protect any person who exposes issues that are in the public interest, including abuse of law, unlawful activities as well as wrongdoings. We strongly believe whistleblowers must be able to equally report internally, to a competent authority or to the media in order to guarantee the freedom of expression as well as the citizens’ right to information.
Transparency of the Public Sector
The public sector, including private entities carrying out work on behalf of a public body, must be transparent and publish information as open data by default, without applying restrictions on their re-use. Better legislative transparency is needed, particularly in the Council and in trilogues. Public authorities should have a duty to document information concerning decision-making processes. Public authorities and representatives should be obliged to keep records and proactively publish information such as their agendas, minutes of meetings, third-party documents such as lobbyist input and information justifying decisions taken.
The principle of transparency should apply to all public bodies, including the Court of Justice, the permanent representations of member states and the rotating national presidencies of the Council.
Pirates believe that it is a fundamental right of citizens to inspect, without the need for any specific justification, all contracts or financial benefits related to the delivery of public sector or government projects and services.