The 13th November, some FutureLabbers had the opportunity to participate in the europe@debate event ‘Imagining Europe in 2037: Scenarios for the future’ held in Paris in collaboration with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. One of the three scenarios presented, ‘Democratic Glocalisation’, claims that in 2037 democracy strikes back – and the EU becomes its standard bearer. Here is the scenario as presented during the debate with Hugues de Jouvenel (Futuribles).
In 2037, a wave of democratisation has swept the international scene, affecting countries such as China, Cuba or Syria. Europe serves as a direct source of inspiration since many of its nations experienced a political transition from totalitarian regimes themselves. Yet this democratic process merges with different traditions and histories, producing a variety of outcomes. Since it is not a one-way street, some states are at advanced stage while others remain stuck in grey zones. In addition, many of them establish a configuration of democracy that might not be compatible with out current, widely accepted political notions. To be sure, Europe no longer holds the monopoly over claiming democratic values. In contrast, the existence of different notions of democracy render the concept broadly relative. Such situation poses Europe an opportunity to re-imagine and re-define its own concept of democracy towards greater participation and debate.
The exam of the very foundations of European democracy does not come as a surprise. In the past, European citizens manifested a deep disengagement with traditional representative democratic processes, as evidenced by the variety of social movements that took place in different countries. After decades of citizens’ demands, a bold, innovative movement towards greater empowerment of individuals is made. It takes the shape of “Democratic Glocalisation”. In this new configuration, forums for participatory democracy are created at local level and then channelled to the supranational level, where they are linked with other local communities. Democratic glocalisation rests therefore upon a two-fold process. In the first stage, the organisation of local communities is promoted as a framework where decisions are taken by means of deliberation among equal members in search of the best collective solution. In the second one, the European Union settles itself up as a co-ordinating entity that conciliates a variety of local, national and supranational interests as well as bearing the instruments to solve their incidental conflicts. The use of the possibilities offered by technological innovation is a key element for this new decision-making process. Likewise, an active, individual-seeking attitude by the political powers is needed in order to effectively communicate with and involve citizens.
What is the role of traditional institutional structures in this picture? The long-established figures of nation-state and parliamentary democracy remain deeply entrenched in the minds of the older generations – which now represent an even higher proportion of the total population. For this reason, they are kept in coexistence with the abovementioned participatory decision-making processes. In other words, democratic glocalisation does not substitute but complement democracy and democratic structures as we previously understood them.
However, the value of democratic glocalisation cannot be downplayed. It allows the EU to regain a civic narrative similar to that of its early foundation, when Europe meant a road towards peace, prosperity and democratic values. This is so because the eventual overcoming of a political, social and economic crisis has become a uniting thread among Europeans. Further, the EU has empowered individuals in a way that the nation state had not before: it has offered them the opportunity to deliberate and decide locally, but generating an impact globally. Fort the first time, the European polity feels like something done for people and by people – and citizens take full ownership of the European Project.
Written following EUPOPE@DEBATE ‘Imagining Europe in 2037–scenarios for the future’ in Paris, 13 November 2012.