The EU and its member states should make use of deliberative citizens’ participation methods, like Citizens’ Assemblies, to encourage dialogue and overcome deadlocks in important policy areas.

Recent exercises in participative democracy, like the Citizens’ Assembly in Scotland and the Citizens’ Panels in the Conference on the Future of Europe, allow for randomly-selected citizens to raise ideas and make proposals. But they also help to bring the citizens closer to decision makers and overcome the crisis of representative democracy. These processes can help give voice to those who are often excluded from the political system, such as stateless nations or minorities.

Referendums should be used to decide big questions of constitutional importance, as in Scotland and Catalonia. But the Brexit referendum has shown the outcome of a referendum campaign that was rushed, polarising and not suitably informed. Deliberative processes such as Citizens’ Assemblies should be used to kick-start an inclusive, less confrontational and more dialogue-oriented discussion prior to referendums on important topics. This model has been used very successfully in Ireland to decide on constitutional changes such as changing abortion and blasphemy laws.

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