• Description

In the absence of a commonly accepted theory of transnational democracy, evaluations of the EU's democratic performance as a transnational non-state polity remain problematic. This observation is highlighted not least by the introduction of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) in the Lisbon Treaty. The ECI has been characterized as the world's first transnational citizens' initiative, even though in participatory terms, it is little more than a mere petition. From a deliberative perspective, on the other hand, the ECI's main potential lies in its ability to foster transnational contestation and deliberation, as the cases of the formal Right2Water and the informal Stop TTIP initiatives have demonstrated. Such initiatives do however illustrate the problems that traditional state-centered theories of publics, publicness and the public sphere have in dealing with processes that by their very nature transcend, but by no means replace existing spatial, cultural and linguistic boundaries across the EU. Because of the ECI's organizational requirements, the success of an initiative requires the interaction of publics as well as an interplay of mobilization and contestation processes at the local, regional, national and transnational levels. The proposed paper reflects on these requirements both as a challenge and as an opportunity for (a) the continued democratization of the EU and (b) the further development of a theory of transnational democracy, in particular with a view to conceptualizing the role and very definition of the publics, publicness and indeed the public sphere within transnational democracy. Particular emphasis within this analysis is placed on the role of digital media as a facilitator in the development of publics that are by definition neither exclusively subnational, national or transnational, but transcend and elude such categorizations. Empirical illustrations are drawn from the formal Right2Water and the informal Stop TTIP campaigns.