One of the items on the agenda of the current session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, is the use of referendums. The Council of Europe decided to adopt a Resolution to update guidelines for member countries of the CoE on the fair use of referendums.
The Report on this matter is being examined by the Commission on Political Affairs and Democracy. As the rapporteur, Mrs Cheryl Gillan, puts it in the introduction: “Recalling that, in some countries, recent referendums have raised concerns about the process and/or the fairness of the outcome, the report underlines that referendums should be embedded in the process of representative democracy and should not be used by the executive to override the wishes of parliament or be intended to bypass normal checks and balances.”
André Gattolin, Senator of En Marche and Honorary Member of the Global Committee for the Rule of Law and Roberto Rampi, Senator of the Democratic Party and Secretary of the Italian Delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly, are both members of the Nonviolent Radical Party and they strongly supported the Report. Roberto Rampi made the following remarks: “it is very important that the Council of Europe looks at this and other issues. Referendums are a great tool for popular involvement if, and only if, the right to know is ensured, that is, if citizens are given the information in order to decide. Otherwise, referendums become tools employed at the whim of strong pressure groups who consider citizens for their own interests, thus destroying all democratic checks and balances which are at the foundation of representative democracy and guarantee the protection of minorities. They are a prerequisite for freedom.”