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Document 52023IP0330

European Parliament resolution of 14 September 2023 on Parliamentarism, European citizenship and democracy (2023/2017(INI))

OJ C, C/2024/1769, 22.3.2024, ELI: (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, GA, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)


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Official Journal
of the European Union


Series C




Parliamentarism, European citizenship and democracy

European Parliament resolution of 14 September 2023 on Parliamentarism, European citizenship and democracy (2023/2017(INI))


The European Parliament,

having regard to Articles 9, 10, 11, 15 and 17(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and Articles 15, 20 and 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission of 13 April 2016 on Better Law-Making (1) (Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making),

having regard to its position of 14 February 2023 on the proposal for a Council directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (2),

having regard to its position of 14 February 2023 on the proposal for a Council directive laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections by Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (3),

having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2022 on Parliament’s right of initiative (4),

having regard to its position of 3 May 2022 on the proposal for a Council Regulation on the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, repealing Council Decision (76/787/ECSC, EEC, Euratom) and the Act concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage annexed to that Decision (5),

having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2019 on the implementation of the Treaty provisions related to EU citizenship (6), and to its resolution of 9 March 2022 with proposals to the Commission on citizenship and residence by investment schemes (7),

having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union (8),

having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (9),

having regard to its resolution of 4 May 2022 on the follow-up to the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe (10) (CoFE),

having regard to its resolution of 6 April 2022 on the implementation of citizenship education actions (11),

having regard to its resolution of 12 April 2016 on Learning EU at school (12),

having regard to its position of 16 April 2014 on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament on the detailed provisions governing the exercise of the European Parliament’s right of inquiry and repealing Decision 95/167/EC, Euratom, ECSC of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission (13),

having regard to the conclusions of the Presidency following the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments held in Prague on 24-25 April 2023  (14),

having regard to the conclusions of the Plenary Meeting of the LXIX Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs held in Stockholm on 14-16 May 2023  (15),

having regard to the Declaration of Léon on parliamentarism adopted at the Conference to Commemorate the International Day of Parliamentarism: Strengthening Parliaments to Enhance Democracy, held in Léon on 30 June — 1 July 2023  (16),

having regard to the report of the final outcome of the CoFE (17),

having regard to the Proposal of a Manifesto for a Federal Europe: Sovereign, Social and Ecological, adopted by the Spinelli Group on 29 August 2022  (18),

having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (A9-0249/2023),


whereas the EU and its Parliaments are confronted with common, unprecedented and complex challenges brought about on the one hand by external factors such as Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate and energy crises, disinformation, foreign interference and digitalisation, and on the other hand by internal factors such as the rise of extremes and political actors who put polarisation, populism, nationalism, blaming and confrontation before the search for common solutions; whereas in this context, citizens’ trust in politics and political decision-makers is being undermined;


whereas a common definition and understanding of liberal parliamentary democracy and the political will to make it more resilient are urgently needed in order to ensure the functioning of the separation of powers and with a view to encouraging citizens to make use of their right to vote in all elections;


whereas European democracy can generate further legitimacy through change and adaptation to current developments; whereas Europe urgently needs to sustain, strengthen and further develop liberal parliamentary democracy including parliamentarism, European citizenship and participatory elements of European democracy, making use of all instruments within the remit of the Treaties; whereas a reform of the democratic foundations of the Union is needed, where necessary through Treaty change;


whereas there should be no decision-making without democratic legitimacy through parliamentary approval; whereas the European Parliament, despite being the only directly elected EU institution and therefore at the heart of European liberal democracy, does not yet have a general direct right of initiative, which would strengthen its ability to represent the voice of citizens and reflect the concerns raised by civil society and the social partners;


whereas Article 15 TEU specifies that the European Council must not exercise legislative nor executive functions; whereas certain aspects of the Council’s rotating presidency system as well as the role of the General Affairs Council hamper their efficient functioning and need to be reformed with a view to improving the legislative process within a bicameral system;


whereas it is necessary to correct institutional imbalances that have arisen over time and to increase the accountability of the executive toward the legislature, in particular to grant Parliament scrutiny powers over the European Council, as well as to improve the political accountability of the Commission to Parliament; whereas, the relationship between Parliament and the Council, often portrayed as a bicameral legislative system, does not always represent the actual practice nor has it been institutionalised;


whereas the persistence of unanimity voting in the Council has become a de facto impediment to the advancement of the European agenda and to further development and reform of European democracy, as it allows one government of a Member State to block EU decision-making, often to the detriment of the European interest;


whereas it is important for the EU institutions to better take into account the role played by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in the legislative framework as representatives of local and regional authorities and organised civil society;


whereas the conclusions of the presidency of the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments (EUSC), held in Prague on 24-25 April 2023, welcomed the initiative of the European Parliament in the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs (COSAC) to ‘jointly advance on the role of Parliaments in a functioning democracy and to reflect on possible ways to strengthen modern parliamentarism, with a view to informing the next EUSC in Madrid about the results on this matter’ (19); whereas the LXIX COSAC, held in Stockholm on 14-16 May 2023, took note of these conclusions of the EUSC, in particular the invitation to COSAC to propose an exchange of best practices and to reflect on possible ways to strengthen modern parliamentarism (20);


whereas the Global Conference to Commemorate the International Day of Parliamentarism, held in León on 30 June and 1 July 2023, adopted the Declaration of Léon on parliamentarism; whereas this declaration supports the European Parliament’s initiative aimed at drafting a charter on the role of parliamentarism in an effective democracy; whereas the final adoption of this charter is expected to take place at the EUSC in Madrid on 21-23 April 2024 (21);


whereas the conclusions of the CoFE call for the strengthening of European democracy, for improvements to the EU’s decision-making process in order to ensure the EU’s capability to act, and for representative democracy to be complemented and enhanced by increasing citizens’ participation and access to information and youth involvement; whereas the CoFE conclusions also call for European Citizenship to be strengthened, for instance through the elaboration of a European citizenship statute establishing specific rights and freedoms;


whereas the CoFE and other existing successful projects for citizens’ participation have demonstrated citizens’ interest in being included in the democratic life of the Union on a regular basis; whereas the CoFE provided valuable experience in engaging with citizens on a large scale, from which lessons will have to be drawn;


whereas EU citizenship and its related rights, introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht and further enhanced by the Treaty of Lisbon, has been only partially implemented; whereas many European citizens are often not fully aware of their rights deriving from citizenship of the Union;


whereas EU citizenship is currently granted together with the citizenship of a Member State, with limited oversight from the EU itself;


whereas several Member States are still offering so-called golden visa programmes and investor schemes as means of obtaining their nationality and, consequently, EU citizenship;


whereas despite the arrangements under Council Directive 93/109/EC (22) and Council Directive 94/80/EC (23) respectively regarding the participation of non-national Union citizens in European Parliament and municipal elections in their country of residence, non-national Union citizens still face many obstacles in exercising their electoral rights in elections to the European Parliament;


whereas according to Article 10(3) TEU, citizens have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union and decisions must be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizens; whereas participatory democracy is considered to be one way to improve political awareness and dialogue with all citizens of the Union;


whereas there is still a lack of awareness of the existing participatory instruments, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative, petitions to the European Parliament, complaints to the European Ombudsman, public consultations and Citizens’ Dialogues; whereas participatory democracy in the EU is affected by high fragmentation of participatory instruments and a lack of follow-up, which limits their success and prevents them from adding up to a comprehensive and efficient participatory infrastructure;


whereas any measures to strengthen citizens’ participation and democracy must address the digital divide in the EU and the difficulties it creates for such participation to be effective;


whereas the new citizens’ panels proposed by the Commission as a follow-up to the CoFE are limited in scope and do not meet citizens’ expectations as expressed in the CoFE;


whereas the referendum as a direct democracy instrument is currently not available at EU level; whereas the European Parliament has repeatedly called for evaluations of the use of EU wide referendums on fundamental matters that would bring paradigm changes in the EU’s actions and policies, such as Treaty reform;


whereas a revolution is occurring in media consumption habits, especially among young people, which can negatively affect access to fact-based, well-researched information while increasing the availability of low quality and polarised content, and may lead to the fragmentation of societies and the undermining of democracies; whereas access to independent, pluralistic, quality media services is a cornerstone of a well-functioning democracy;



Recognises that in the current times of common and unprecedented challenges, liberal parliamentary democracy is under pressure and must urgently be sustained, strengthened and further developed; emphasises the key role of the Parliaments at the heart of European democracy as the directly elected chambers of the citizens, legislators and scrutinisers of the executive; acknowledges that liberal democracy can only successfully prove itself if parliamentarism strives and functions; underlines the need for a common understanding, fundamental principles and definition of liberal parliamentary democracy; welcomes, in this context, the initiative of the European Parliament to develop together with the parliaments of the EU a common ‘Charter on the role of Parliaments in a functioning liberal democracy’;


Considers that the current trend within the EU of moving from a ‘parliamentary’ towards a ‘governmental’ democracy weakens all parliaments in the decision-making process; notes with regret an increasing power imbalance shifting towards the Council and the European Council, which erodes the institutional architecture of the EU as established by the Treaties; believes that, in this context, the balance should be restored in favour of democratic legitimacy through equivalent rights for Parliament; considers that the European Council’s practice of ‘tasking the Council and the Commission’ goes beyond the role of strategic guidance assigned to it by the Treaties, and is therefore contrary to both the word and spirit of the Treaties; considers it necessary to respect the division of competences and the principle of subsidiarity as defined in the Treaties;


Strongly believes that in a democracy, Parliaments must be part of every decision-making process; stresses that the European Parliament, as the only directly elected EU institution, should be granted the general direct right of legislative initiative, the right of inquiry and full authority over the budget, and that as the chamber of the EU citizens it should be the driving force behind the strategic priorities of the European legislative agenda; calls in this regard for an amendment of Articles 225 and 226 TFEU;


Reiterates its proposal that the Council be transformed into a true legislative chamber by reducing the number of Council configurations by means of a European Council decision, thus creating a genuinely bicameral legislative system involving the European Parliament and Council, with the Commission acting as the executive; believes that the rotating presidency system of the Council of the EU should be reformed with a view to increasing the efficiency of the legislative process within a bicameral system; suggests that the General Affairs Council should become the legislative Council meeting in public, similar to the European Parliament in plenary, while all other Council configurations should become transparent preparatory structures, with regular meetings to be held in public, functioning in a similar way to the committees of the European Parliament;


Reiterates its long-standing calls for the Council to switch from unanimity to qualified majority voting wherever this is possible under the Treaties in the short term, for example by activating the various passerelle clauses in the Treaties, and permanently by means of Treaty changes, in order to overcome legislative blockages, to enhance the EU’s ability to act and to make EU decision-making more efficient, effective and democratic;


Considers it necessary for Parliament to strengthen its functions of political scrutiny over the Commission, including introducing the possibility of triggering motions of censure against individual commissioners;


Highlights that special legislative procedures where the right of legislative initiative is conferred on Parliament by the Treaties should include mutual exchanges on the establishment of a legislative calendar for the initiatives concerned in order to ensure respect of the principle of sincere cooperation among all three institutions; expects, in this light, that new impetus will be given to the interinstitutional talks between Parliament and the Council on the much-needed reform of the European Electoral Law as well as on the right of inquiry of the European Parliament;


Calls for the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission to continue to improve cooperation modalities with the CoR and the EESC, including at the pre-legislative stage, in order to ensure that their opinions and assessments can be taken into account throughout the legislative process; suggests in particular the strengthening of informal exchanges both at committee level and at political group level between the relevant actors of the three institutions, and that the rapporteurs of the CoR and EESC be invited to participate in considering draft reports in the parliamentary committee and committee debriefing meetings on interinstitutional negotiations, where applicable;


Emphasises the key role of parliaments at the heart of democracy and the need to respect the clear division of competences between the different levels of European liberal democracy, i.e. the local, regional, national and European levels, in line with the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in Article 5 TEU, to ensure democratic legitimacy and an efficient decision-making process and to enhance trust and cooperation between Parliaments on different levels; points out, in this regard, that national parliaments are best placed to mandate and scrutinise the actions of their respective governments in European affairs, while the European executive is held democratically accountable by the European Parliament, which also ensures its legitimacy; underlines the need for regular political dialogue and exchange between parliaments in order to create awareness and understanding of parliamentary work and decisions, such as in the frameworks of the EUSC and COSAC;


Recalls the need to improve the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the EU institutions, in particular by cooperating with national parliaments in line with the prerogatives already included in the current Treaties and to ensure a more prominent role for national and local level representatives in the process in order to achieve ‘active subsidiarity’, with the aim of promoting greater ownership of EU policies; further suggests that ‘active subsidiarity’ be strengthened through a process for giving national parliaments the right to submit proposals to the European Parliament; supports, in this context, the Building Europe with Local Councillors programme, which creates a European network of locally elected politicians aimed at communicating the European Union;


Underlines that a parliament in presence entails a vibrant parliamentary democracy; highlights that digitalisation and the pandemic have contributed to the digital transformation of parliaments and have allowed Members that would have otherwise been excluded to participate in parliamentary life; underlines that digitalised processes should not replace voting, debates and negotiations in presence, except for in cases under specific circumstances; stresses that the enhanced use of digital possibilities has the potential to contribute to a better political understanding between parliaments at the national, regional and European levels, to increase communication, the sharing of information and awareness, to reduce transport and travel emissions and to strengthen contact with citizens;


Is highly concerned about the rapid and large-scale evolution of targeted disinformation campaigns, and the misuse of generative artificial intelligence with the intention to prevent citizens from making informed choices and ultimately undermine democratic processes within the Union; calls for the national parliaments of the Member States to establish regular exchanges on the protection of their democracies against foreign interference and information manipulation with the European Parliament as a part of COSAC inter-parliamentary cooperation; calls for a coordinated EU strategy to address threats to media independence and the establishment of a substantial and permanent EU editorial and news media support fund;


Highlights the need to strengthen the electorate’s confidence in electoral processes by ensuring that all elections are free and fair; calls in this regard for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to organise election observation missions during the elections to the European Parliament in June 2024; encourages the Member States again to make use of this possibility;

European citizenship


Calls for the creation of an EU Statute of Citizenship to clarify and consolidate citizenship-specific rights and freedoms that connect the citizens in the Union; calls on the Council and Commission to take concrete steps towards the expansion of citizenship-specific rights and freedoms following the procedure under Article 25 TFEU; underlines that the Statute will make the principles and values of the Union more tangible while also providing citizens with new means to safeguard and uphold them;


Highlights that effective citizens’ dialogues and active citizens’ participation are strongly linked to the European dimension of citizenship education; stresses therefore the need to enhance the European dimension of citizenship education in curricular and extracurricular activities, in order to ensure citizens are active and informed so they are able to fully participate in civic and social life at both the European and Member State level as well as in the democratic life of the Union; calls on the Commission to develop a comprehensive European strategy to enhance citizenship competences in the EU and develop supportive measures aimed at providing equal access to citizenship education; underlines the important role that civil society, universities and other research organisations should play in such a strategy;


Calls on the Commission and the Member States to better inform non-national Union citizens (i.e. Union citizens who reside in a Member State of which they are not nationals) about their right to vote in or run for office in municipal and European elections; stresses that an extension to such ‘mobile’ EU citizens’ right to vote and stand in regional and national elections in Member States should be considered; points out that the Council and the Commission can introduce these rights through the procedure outlined in Article 25 TFEU, while in the long-term it should be anchored in Article 22 TFEU through Treaty change; highlights the need for awareness-raising campaigns concerning these rights with the participation of civil society; stresses that all administrative barriers and discrimination that still exist must be removed to ensure equal possibilities for all mobile Union citizens, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups;


Reiterates its call for the introduction of a harmonised age for the right to vote and stand as a candidate across Member States in order to avoid discrimination; recommends the introduction of a minimum voting age of 16, without prejudice to existing constitutional orders, to reflect current rights and duties that Europe’s young people already have in some Member States;


Recalls that the European Parliament has consistently expressed its concern that any national scheme that involves the direct or indirect sale of EU citizenship undermines the very concept of European citizenship; calls on the Member States concerned to put an end to such practices;


Is highly concerned by the practice of certain Member States of depriving their citizens of the right to vote in national parliamentary elections when they live abroad; urges these Member States to end this form of disenfranchisement;

Complementing representative democracy through improving citizens’ participation


Reiterates that, in line with the founding text of the CoFE, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have committed to following up effectively on the conclusions of the Conference, each within the remit of their competences and in accordance with the Treaties; calls for a swift and consistent implementation of the results of the CoFE, encompassing 49 proposals and 326 concrete measures delivered by the CoFE’s European Citizens Panels; reiterates its call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties;


Believes that one of the ways in which European citizens’ expectations for more regular and meaningful involvement in the democratic life of the Union (24) can be addressed by improving and developing participatory mechanisms within the EU;


Stresses the need to improve and develop a comprehensive participation infrastructure in the EU, with better connection and integration of existing participatory instruments and better avenues for permanent participation; underlines the need to address the fragmentation of the EU participation infrastructure by creating a one-stop-shop for all European participatory instruments with an institutional framework set up to administer the central hub and its relations to citizens;


Underlines that direct or participatory democracy mechanisms and instruments can complement but not replace representative liberal parliamentary democracy in an increasingly complex world, where the search for viable and democratic compromises is needed; notes that mechanisms of direct or participatory democracy can be useful instruments if certain requirements are met; suggests in particular that the efficiency of the existing European participatory instruments be enhanced by providing mandatory meaningful follow-up;


Recalls that improved and increased participation will only be possible by addressing the problem of discrimination, in particular resulting from the digital divide and the difficulties it creates for effective participation in the democratic life of the Union; reiterates that digital applications to promote citizens’ participation should be simple and intuitive;


Proposes the institutionalisation of representative deliberative participation processes based on the model of the CoFE’s European Citizens Panels; believes that ‘mini-publics’ with randomly selected participants representing subsets of the socio-economic structure of the Union and thereby the whole spectrum of society need to be organised in a way that helps prevent unequal access to participation in the democratic life of the Union by offering citizens that otherwise might not have this opportunity a way of expressing their vision;


Believes that it is important to strengthen active citizenship and effective citizens’ participation at EU level through the acquisition of specific knowledge about the EU and the European dimension of the topics under discussion; underlines the need to address the lack of familiarity with EU policies and decision-making among the general public through better education about the EU in schools; calls, in particular, for dedicated training and a sustained deliberative process in which the citizens on citizens panels are given the necessary information complemented through the support of experts if necessary, so as to be able to engage in open debates that can result in recommendations and conclusions;


Proposes, in particular, the creation of a structured participation mechanism, in line with the EU acquis, called the European Agora, which should work on yearly basis, deliberating on the EU’s priorities for the year ahead with the results of the deliberations to be presented on 9 May 2023 as an input to the consultation process on the Commission Annual Work Programme (CAWP); notes that those results should also include a proposal for the specific theme for the European Year in the following annual cycle; proposes that European Parliament’s representatives should be regularly informed on the developments of those deliberations in order to take them into account in its parliamentary work;


Stresses that throughout the year, the citizens in the European Agora will discuss the content related to the specific theme of the European Year, and their proposals and conclusions should be presented at the end of the year; considers that different options for follow-up by Parliament should be laid down taking into account the sizes of the majorities supporting these conclusions in the panel, and that this follow-up could include debates, hearings, parliamentary questions or reports;


Suggests that a Youth component of the Agora should form a European Youth Assembly, which may monitor the application of a ‘youth check’ throughout the EU’s legislative process as requested by the CoFE; proposes that the European Parliament liaises with the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee to establish a mechanism with representatives such as young local elected politicians, representatives of youth civil society and of social partners, which should cooperate closely with the Youth Assembly to implement the youth check; underlines in this regard the need to engage with young people in particular in a political debate on the future of Europe, as today’s decisions will determine their future;


Reiterates its long-standing call to evaluate the possibility of amending the EU Treaties to allow EU-wide referendums on fundamental matters that initiate paradigm changes in the European Union’s actions and policies such as a reform of the EU Treaties; underlines, in this context, that the result of the referendum should only be adopted if there is a double majority in favour, representing a majority of Member States and a majority of voters who turn out to vote; proposes that such an EU-wide referendum could be organised in the course of European parliamentary elections by providing an additional ballot addressing the fundamental constitutional matter in question; points out that any European referendum should ideally be organised on the same day throughout the Union;


Proposes the introduction of pan-European online citizens’ consultations, organised by the European Parliament; believes that giving all citizens the opportunity to express their views on current European affairs will increase their trust in and understanding of the European decision-making process; considers that this new participatory mechanism strengthens the EP’s role vis-à-vis the other institutions;


Notes the potential for the exercise of European citizenship through online tools such as online consultations and online collection of signatures for European Citizens’ Initiatives; notes that electronic ID may facilitate the use of such tools at European level as well as provide a variety of options for access to public services; calls on the Member States to introduce e-democracy tools at local and national level, and properly integrate them in the political process;


Calls for the Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL) and others aimed at promoting digital transformation in the EU to include simplifying access to administrations through the various services or the use of citizen participation applications among their objectives; it calls for research and investment lines aimed at facilitating such access in order to minimise the digital divide and maximise social and democratic quality;


o o


Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the Commission, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and the Council of Europe.

(1)   OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1.

(2)  Texts adopted, P9_TA(2023)0037.

(3)  Texts adopted, P9_TA(2023)0038.

(4)   OJ C 493, 27.12.2022, p. 112.

(5)   OJ C 465, 6.12.2022, p. 171.

(6)   OJ C 449, 23.12.2020, p. 6.

(7)   OJ C 347, 9.9.2022, p. 97.

(8)   OJ C 449, 23.12.2020, p. 6.

(9)   OJ C 252, 18.7.2018, p. 215.

(10)   OJ C 465, 6.12.2022, p. 109.

(11)   OJ C 434, 15.11.2022, p. 31.

(12)   OJ C 58, 15.2.2018, p. 57.

(13)   OJ C 443, 22.12.2017, p. 39.









(22)  Council Directive 93/109/EC of 6 December 1993 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (OJ L 329, 30.12.1993, p. 34).

(23)  Council Directive 94/80/EC of 19 December 1994 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals (OJ L 368, 31.12.1994, p. 38).

(24)  BertelsmannStiftung, ‘ Next level citizen participation in the EU. Institutionalising European Citizens’ Assemblies ’, 2022.


ISSN 1977-091X (electronic edition)