I wish to add three points to the discussion:
- European Spring should advocate that EU citizens participate in the administrative and political elections in their country of residence, rather than in the country whose citizenship they hold.
- Democracy does not mean and should not mean that the citizens have a direct say on each and every topic.
- Politicians should be voted by direct election and not being nominated by their party
Let me elaborate on the reasons:
Political voting rights should be exercised at the place of residence, which currently is not the case for those Europeans living in another European country. Current rule is: for administrative elections (city council, major) voting rights are assigned on the basis of residence; for political elections (national or EU parliament, regional parliament) voting rights are assigned on the basis of citizenship.
This creates a two-class citizenship of those who can express a political vote and those who cannot or can do so only in a country they do not live in. Not having political voting rights creates an emotional disenchantment from democratic processes.
Since the early 1990s, European universities have increasingly fostered international partnerships, and Erasmus has become a standard for many students, this has increased pan-European exchange, and those who thanks to such student exchanges have become true European citizens suffer particularly from current trends towards regionalization. The Schengen Agreement allows and encourages pan-European people movement, and not aligning the move ability of political voting rights to actual people’s movement means a half finished product with strange distortions. You may say that this is pure theoretical and marginal problem. It is not. The foreign population in almost all EU countries is 10% or above, which means 10% or more are precluded from expressing a political vote. As an example: in my family, for a number of political elections in UK, Germany and Italy over more than 10 years, out of six adults (my sister and her husband, my wife’s brother and his wife, my wife and I) only one (!) held political voting rights in her country of residence. It is true that this can be overcome by acquiring the host country’s citizenship; but this takes time, and leads to unnecessary complexity once the person changes residence to another country or back to its country of origin.
The main risk to democracy is if democracy leads to poor decisions. Normally, a group of people has a potential to make better decisions than any even so smart single individual, that’s why teamwork is good. Yet, one of the worst things to happen is democracy in the battlefield: you cannot vote always on everything. That is why the most effective way to block an organization is creating a committee for every little problem.
Therefore, direct democracy with continuous voting on every little thing is the death of democracy. An example is the recent discussion on whether maintaining or not summer time: a vote of less than 1% of voters drives the discussion and is advocated by the EU president. Is this the form of democracy we want?
Or shouldn’t rather those that are voted to represent any portion of voters be accountable towards their voters? I believe this is the most important aspect of democracy, which means that politicians should battle in their electoral home for votes, and not be named by their party on the basis of a vote given to a party. If we can have this, we do not need as many options for referenda.
One last comment on @Hans_v:
According to article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all people have the right for real direct democracy.
Probably this is a case of lost in translation: art 21 does not prescribe direct democracy but states that each citizens has a right to participate directly (i.e. being elected) or through elected representatives (i.e. voting for someone) in the government of his or her country.