Giving Voters Their Say France and Other States Experiment with Direct Democracy
Paris recently moved to give its citizens the right to decide on major European Union issues like expansion. The move is just the latest in European experimentation with direct democracy.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy: Not so fast, Turkey.
There are conditions on the new reform, though: Parliament, for example, can put the brakes on any EU referendum. In order to do so, members of parliament in both the lower and upper chambers -- the French National Assembly and the Senate -- must vote with a three-fifths majority either for or against a country's accession. Sarkozy sought to secure the power to decide whether voters should be able to hold a referendum or not for himself; but parliament refused to back down.
Graphic: Direct democracy in European Union member states
In Germany, the federal constitution, or Basic Law, doesn't envision referenda at the national level, but opportunities are increasing for direct democracy at the local level. In Berlin, for example, voters recently rejected a referendum that called for Tempelhof Airport, the historic site of the Berlin Airlift, to be kept open despite the city government's plan to close it.
SPIEGEL has compiled a map on the varying degrees of direct democracy in EU member states. You can click on the graphic above for more details.