Electronic petitioning and modernization of petitioning systems in Europe
The committee's preface
Petitions are an instrument, guaranteed in the German Basic Law, for protecting citizens’ interests and rights vis-à-vis the state; they are also a means of citizen participation. They are characterized by a low level of formal requirements and are also a suitable tool for individuals and small groups to articulate their interests. Use of the internet within the petitioning process has increased the attractiveness and profile of this fundamental right. However, it is also important to consider how use of the internet will contribute to a change in the petitioning system over the longer term. Owing to the high importance of petitioning for a democratic society and following a proposal by the Petitions Committee, the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment commissioned the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) to conduct the technology assessment project »Electronic Petitioning and Modernization of Petitioning Systems in Europe«.
The report focuses on three main areas of investigation: the development of petitioning among the European parliaments, a case study on petitioning in the United Kingdom and a detailed examination of the petition system in Germany and especially of the electronic petition platform of the German Bundestag, which was able to build on studies conducted by TAB on the experimental model »Public Petitions«. The study of European countries considered the 27 mem¬ber states of the European Union and also Switzerland and Norway. This therefore provides the first-ever complete overview of the petitioning and ombudsman system in Europe. Nine of the 21 parliamentary petition bodies currently have their own internet presence at national level. None of these countries currently have a system for public and electronic petitions such as that offered by the German Bundestag. However, some parliaments are planning to expand their internet service accordingly.
The petition process of the German Bundestag underwent a fundamental reform in 2005 based on the example of the Scottish Parliament and incorporated the internet as a medium for submitting, supporting and discussing petitions. This has contributed to the reputation of the Petitions Committee among the population and has generated considerable attention among the general public and in the media. The usage figures for the petition platform provide impressive evidence of the degree to which it has been embraced by the population. The surveys of petitioners conducted by TAB also reveal that Public Petitions are considered a model of success. In particular, TAB considers that the rules governing the admission of Public Petitions and also the discussion forums for Public Petitions offer starting points for further development and improvement of the system. It is also proposed that where possible, all elements of the petition system should be designed so that they are not merely accessible via the internet; they should also be accessible via conventional channels, thereby ensuring that segments of the population who do not use the internet are not excluded.
This report provides the German Bundestag with an up-to-date point of reference that will enable Parliament to address this important socio-political issue.
The Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment
Ulla Burchardt, Member of the German Bundestag
Dr. Thomas Feist, Member of the German Bundestag
René Röspel, Member of the German Bundestag
Prof. Dr. Martin Neumann, Member of the German Bundestag
Dr. Petra Sitte, Member of the German Bundestag
Hans-Josef Fell, Member of the German Bundestag
|Title||Electronic petitioning and modernization of petitioning systems in Europe|
|Author||Ulrich Riehm • Knud Böhle • Ralf Lindner|
|Series||Technology Assessment Studies Series - 6|
|Publisher||BoD – Books on Demand, Norderstedt|