Bundestag President announces citizens' assemblies

04. May 2022
Bärbel Bas

Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) wants to launch randomly selected citizens' assemblies at the federal level before the end of 2022. "We have just decided in the Council of Elders that a call for tenders for the implementation of citizens' assemblies can now be started," the SPD politician told the "Augsburger Allgemeine" of 3 May 2022. The assemblies are to meet on specific issues and develop recommendations, which the Bundestag is to deal with.

"The parliamentary groups are now discussing which topic we will choose and how we will deal with the results afterwards in parliament and vis-à-vis the federal government," Bas said. She said she wanted to tie in with the model projects of her CDU predecessor in office, Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), during whose term in office 160 randomly selected citizens had each worked out recommendations for the Bundestag on topics such as democracy, climate or Germany's role in the world.

Start at the end of 2022

"I estimate that we could start the first project at the end of the year," Bas continued. "Citizens' assemblies should, in my estimation, deal with concrete socio-political issues. "Compulsory vaccination would have been such an issue." Citizens' assemblies could never replace representative democracy, but they could contribute to bringing parliament closer to citizens.

The coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP had agreed in their coalition agreement to set up and organise citizens' assemblies on concrete issues by the Bundestag. The Bundestag is to deal with the results.

Mehr Demokratie welcomes announcement

The NGO Mehr Demokratie welcomes the fact that citizens' assemblies initiated by the Bundestag will be launched in 2022. "We are pleased that the Bundestag is taking up the issue of citizen participation so quickly and creating the framework conditions and funding for citizens' assemblies," says Mehr Demokratie board spokesperson Claudine Nierth, who co-initiated the first nationwide citizens' assembly.

Mehr Demokratie had conducted the Citizens' Assembly of Germany's Role in the World for the Bundestag as a pilot project in 2021. In the run-up to the Bundestag elections, the association had promoted this relatively new participation instrument at the federal level and, among other things, discussed it at 37 events with 117 candidates for the Bundestag at the constituency level.

Citizens' assembly recommends citizens' assemblies

Already in 2019, the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy, also organised by Mehr Demokratie together with the Schöpflin Foundation, had advocated a legal anchoring of citizens' assemblies at the federal level. The 160 participants of the mini public in Leipzig had thereby also recommended that the government should be obliged to comment on recommendations of citizens' assemblies. According to the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy, the population should also be able to convene citizens' assemblies with a certain minimum number of signatures.

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