20th Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers

Participatory Democracy in the EU: A Challenge for Multilevel Governance


Prof. Dr. em. Johannes W. Pichler


Prof. Johannes W. Pichler, born in 1947, held the chair for European Legal Development from 1995 to 2015 and was chairman of the Institute for Austrian Legal History and European Legal Development at the University of Graz. Since 1989 he has also been director of the Austrian Institute for European Law and Policy at the Edmundsburg International Research Centre in Salzburg.

Pichler completed his studies of law at the Universities of Salzburg and Vienna. His postdoctoral thesis was on the topic of ‘Necessitas’ (1980). He has published numerous books and essays within the framework of a European legal panorama, including on the topics of the history of law, the sociology of law, tenancy law, patient rights and medical law, no-fault compensation schemes, environmental law, children’s rights, youth rights, e-commerce, and topics related to the EU and participatory democracies.

His work currently focuses on the following topics:

1. aspects related to the sociology of law, for example through the development of a method for the application of the European notions of law and value, as well as how one can convey the EU Constitution, i.e. the Union Treaty and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;

2. European Citizens’ Initiative (Article 11 (4) TEU), the so-called ‘values dialogue’ (Article 17 (3) TFEU) and both European civil dialogues, the so-called ‘horizontal’ and the so-called ‘vertical’ under Article 11 (1) and (2) TEU;

3. project ‘Eleven One: The European Citizens’ Senate Online’, which seeks to develop a powerful e-platform for the actual implementation and operation of the horizontal dialogue.




1. In your opinion, what are the values that unite the European Union?

Only the legal values and constitutional values, exactly as they stand in the treaties, i.e. the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR), and the Treaty of Lisbon. No more than that, but also no less. These legal values alone should be gradually fortified. How can a joint European identity be better fostered in the future? By the above-mentioned legal values being respected, lived, and borne by all, without exception; by each and every person being able to claim these values, and if necessary also by a stronger enforcement of these values. A community requires a sense of community. This European community has legislated and constitutionalised its ‘sense’; it is a Europe of law. No one has yet had the courage or the will to communicate this, because: it is too complex and too abstract. The ‘vulnerable’ euro has simply been turned into the anchorman of bonuses – this has not produced any identity nor has it sown any ‘spirit’, and it certainly has not found a narrative. How could things be improved? The European idea has to be brought to the emotional level, it has to point Europeans toward ‘hope and pride’. The development of such a feeling would be entirely justified – but unfortunately the personnel in charge of such proclamations are not authentic.


2. Are alternative models – such as a multi-speed Europe or a European Federation of Regions – conceivable?

Absolutely. For a legal historian, it is all just a matter of the overall intended architecture; constitutional legal formations and organisational structures can always be found.


3. Do you think that the current nationalist tendencies are a short-term phenomenon caused by recent crises; or do they represent the beginning of a long-term development?

The latter, clearly. This is now the litmus test for the European motto in varietate concordia (united in diversity): how much thinning out of concordia can a political union stand; when will it break into pieces? For the less one believes in a strong European identity and a powerful Union (for example, one should be able to trust in its capacity to deal with a mass migration of people), the more strongly one leans – disappointedly – back on one’s own ‘small’ ancestral identity. Those responsible for concordia will have to come up with something very quickly, otherwise nothing but diversity will be left.