13 November 2000

New European direct democracy network gathers 19 countries

This weekend, the first conference of the newly established Network for Direct Democracy in Europe (NDDIE) was held in Munich, Germany. Out of concern for the democratic deficit in Europe, 60 activists of national groups from 19 countries who are active for introduction of the referendum and the initiative, were present. Steps were taken to create a mutual support system and to develop a EU-wide direct democracy movement.

The aim of the NDDIE is mutual support of European direct democracy action groups with knowledge, skills, experience and contacts. This is especially needed as during the last years new direct democracy groups have started in virtually every country in Europe. This way they can benefit from the experience and knowledge of an organization like Mehr Demokratie (Germany) which since 1988 achieved considerable results, such as introduction of a strong referendum and initiative at the local and state level in Bavaria and Hamburg. Today they have 2700 members and operate a nation-wide network of activists. For this aim, NDDIE expert teams are set up who make skills and knowledge available to European action groups through the internet, manuals and workshops. A European newsletter is starting soon.

Besides the mutual support system, the conference discussed the way in which a European-wide movement for introduction of direct democracy at the EU-level could function. The EU is suffering from lack of debate, transparency and real influence of citizens, and direct democracy is effective medicine for these problems, argued political scientist and Swiss member of parliament Andreas Gross. Several groups anounced to work on ideas and proposals for such a movement, which will be on the agenda of the next NDDIE conference in 2001.

For many activists, an exciting aspect of the conference was the meeting in person of all the people with whom they had been exchanging news and information through the internet for years. Besides Gross, special guests of the conference were German former member of parliament Gerald Häfner and former American senator Mike Gravel, longtime proponents of direct democracy. The countries delegations present were from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Chech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The NDDIE is politically independent and only endorses activities for introduction of direct democracy.

We are determined to create a strong direct democracy group in every European country. We will not stop until the people of Europe have gained the right to decide directly on all important matters, says NDDIE coordinator Thomas Rupp of Germany.

For more information, contact NDDIE coordinator Thomas Rupp, Frankfurt (Germany), tel 0049 69 59 44 46, or visit us at - we are grateful if you publish our website address!