aoxfordThis lunchtime I faced an interesting challenge. I had been invited by the Belgium Oxford Society and its Cambridge University counterpart to give a lecture at the Belgian Fondation Universitaire. My chosen topic was, again, ‘ fleshing out the Lisbon Treaty’s provisions on participatory democracy’ and, as my long-suffering family can attest, I spent all of yesterday evening drafting a forty-five minute speech and preparing the inevitable Powerpoint presentation to accompany it. But at ten this morning I was informed that I would be expected to talk for no more than fifteen to twenty minutes, maximum. As I told my audience, it was a case not so much of rising to the occasion as shrinking to it! In the event, it all went very well. My basic thesis is that representative democracy is a necessary but insufficient condition for democracy in the EU, and that this is recognised in the Lisbon Treaty (and its predecessors) by provision for the ‘flanking’ concepts of participatory democracy and also a smidgeon of direct democracy (the so-called ‘citizens’ initiative’). The audience were lively and I fielded a large number of excellent questions. At the end I think we were all agreed that modern democracy is a far more complex phenomenon than it was in the good old days of parliamentary democracy in deferential and class-based societies. I think we were also agreed that, as learned individuals living and working in ‘Europe’, we are all part of the solution, by which I mean that to the extent that we recognise the necessity for ‘Europe’ we should seek to overcome prejudices based, broadly, on ignorance. We need an informed debate – not an uninformed one.