3. Digital Democracy inCentral and Eastern Europe (CEE). Models, Policies and StrategiesThefollowing chapter gives an overview of several important e-participation frameworks,initiatives, policies and strategies relevant at the European and national level.
This outline is not aiming to be comprehensive but rather to map and describeat the qualitative level several issues concerning the e-Democracy in the Europeanand CEE context.3.1 A Top-down EuropeanPerspectiveTheEuropean countries started to develop the legislative framework in matters of opengovernment, transparency, and digital democracy since the early 2000s. Therefore,e-Participation strategies and policies were progressively included in the EUlegal framework. However, these initiatives were connected to a set of valuesand principles such as open access, transparency and the use of the Internet promotedin primary and secondary legislation from 1992 until today. In the last decade,the European Commission has put forward several projects to advance European e-Participation.Firstly, the weight has been on increasing the transparency and accountabilityof the system, which then continued into empowering people with formal toolssuch as Citizens Dialogue, European Citizens’ Initiative, and Year of Citizens2013 celebration. Starting with the issue of citizen participation in the Whitepaper on European Governance in 2001, the document established a minimumstandard of consultation, public access to public interest documents, with theaim to raise the transparency of the decision-making process.
Anothersignificant evolution was the fusion of Europa portal, the Europe Directservice, and the Interactive Policy Making online tool into what we now know asYour Voice in Europe portal. After the Dutch and French referendum on theTreaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, the Commission proposed the PlanD (Democracy, Dialogue and Debate). The initiative’s aim was a “wider debatebetween the European Union’s democratic institutions and citizens” (Ivic, 2011)in order to create a new debate in Europe.
“Plan D was mainly aimed tostrengthen the link of the EU institutions with MS, National Parliaments, localand regional authorities, NGOs and civil society” (European Commission, 2005).This Plan was design starting from a participative approach, as well as new modelsof governance, like the multilevel governance, in order to strength its legitimacy,as it is well stated in the document. However, the resources to accomplish andto implement this plan were limited and the plan did not attain all of itsobjectives.
In 2007, two important documents were also adopted: theCommunication about Europe via Internet (DG Cooperare Interna?ional? ?iDezvoltare, 2007)and the Communicating Europe inPartnership (Europea Commission, 2007).The first document emphasizes the “increased interactivity” and the regular participationof Commissioners and senior Commission officials on the Debate Europe portal. With all these initiatives to raise citizenparticipation, in 2014, 53% of European citizens declared that their voices do nothave influence in the EU (EuropeanCommission, 2014: 26). Even though there has been an progress since 2013(66%), only 50% of EU citizens belives that voting in EU elections is a good wayto influence political decision-making compared to 70% at local and nationallevel (EuropeanCommission, 2014: 9). Yet, EU citizens seek to directly influencedecision-making at EU level by filing online and offline petitions and expressing viewsthrough social media and the Internet.
In fact, within the EU there aresignificant social and cultural differences on status, age, education and placeof residence, contributing to an European digital gap. This digital divide mustbe explored at the national level for better undestanding of e-participationchallenges in CEE. 3.2. Transparency Dimensionand Access to InformationTransparencyis one of the essential pillars of a democratic constitutional state. There canbe different levels of transparency, related to a system’s historical backgroundand evolution1.Dependingon the feature of democracy being promoted, e-democracy can also use different strategies:techniques can be variously used for rising transparency, for strengthencitizen participation, or for improving the value of opinion formation by openingnew sources of information. In this section, emphasis will be put ontransparency, with a focus on information and open data.
One of the principles of open government is the rightof information to citizens. In the open government framework, all governmentalagencies and service providers provide all important information in an suitablemanner. Open information is the foundation for open government, 1 For agood review of literature on transparency see Mabillard and Pasquier (2016).