The Timeliness of Direct Democracy in the EU—The Example of Nuclear Energy in the EU and the Institutionalisation of the European Citizens’ Initiative in the Lisbon Treaty


The catastrophic nuclear incident in Fukushima in March 2011 has shocked Europe. Its impact was particularly strong in Germany with its decade-old anti-nuclear movements. Political and technological re-orientations were initiated in that country without considering at any depth the potential of European law and politics to control or obstruct such moves. Somewhat paradoxically, the Euratom Treaty of 1957 and also the new Treaty of Lisbon confirm the right of each Member State to decide upon the use of nuclear energy autonomously. This means that European citizens remain exposed to the risks of that technology until the highly unlikely consent of all Member States to abstain from its further use. That constellation poses a dilemma for democracy because it implies that each political decision taken within parts of the Union exerts external pan-European effects. The article considers the chances for an inclusive democratic process which would lead to a legitimated European decision. It examines the possibilities offered by the new European Citizens Initiative which the Lisbon Treaty has institutionalized in its Article 12 and concludes that this instrument could indeed be used to instigate a European-wide debate which may eventually lead to pertinent changes in the Treaties.

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C. Joerges, "The Timeliness of Direct Democracy in the EU—The Example of Nuclear Energy in the EU and the Institutionalisation of the European Citizens’ Initiative in the Lisbon Treaty," Beijing Law Review, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-6. doi: 10.4236/blr.2012.31001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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